The Weirdest Events in the History of the Summer Olympics

The Summer Olympics have always been home to the world’s most popular athletic events. Despite this, there has also been a few unusual events that may take you by surprise.

Although it may be challenging to have an event added to the contemporary Olympic roster, it was noted that the early Games were willing to include many sports that could be described as controversial.


You’ll be surprised at some of the strange and rare events that were part of the Summer Olympic Games. Here are some of the weirdest events in the Summer Olympics’ history.

The Weirdest Events in the History of the Summer Olympics
Image Source: CNN


Tug-of-War was contested at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920 as a team event in the Summer Olympics. 

Initially, groups and clubs entered the competition. In the game, a country could join more than one club, enabling one country to earn multiple medals.

That occurred in 1904 when all three medals were won by the United States, and in 1908, when three British teams were occupying the podium. Also, Sweden belongs to the top countries with two medals, one as a member of the mixed team.

Live Pigeon Shooting

Live Pigeon Shooting was held only once in Olympic history, in 1900. This event aimed to shoot and kill as many birds as possible.

The official Games report referred to this sport as “très aristocratique” or very aristocratic. 

This was the first and only time in Olympic history that animals were intentionally killed. However, the incident is not listed in official IOC medal records.

One-Hand Lift

In 1896, 1904, and 1906, the one-hand weight lift was on the Olympic Program. This event mirrored the modern snatch weight lifting event for men alone.

Only one hand was allowed to lift weights. They had to lift with each hand, with the winner decided from both hands’ combined score.

200m Obstacle Race Swimming

This rare swimming event at the 1900 Paris Olympics looks very complicated, but a lot of fun. The 200m Obstacle Race was a mixture of a swimming event and an obstacle race. The athletes had to climb a pole, jump over a line of boats, and dive under another range of boats.

All this was done in the Seine River, so contenders had to deal with the current. The event was only held once in 1900, but it would be a crowd favorite if it ever returned.

Underwater Swimming

Underwater swimming is a common occurrence in the backyard pool. It also made it to the most prominent international sporting venue. This event was only held once at the 1900 Paris Olympics.

The event took place with a maximum of 60 meters, where contenders were awarded two points for each meter underwater. They also received one point for every second they stayed underwater.

Rope Climbing

The participants ascended a suspended vertical rope, using only their hands. How fast you can climb a rope sounds like a good measure of upper body strength and it’s been part of Olympic gymnastics on a few occasions.

Rope Climbing was conducted within the official gymnastics program in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924, and 1932. 

A gymnastics demonstration in 1912 included rope climbing.

Men’s Sailors 100 Meter Freestyle

The 100-meter freestyle event for sailors at the 1896 Athens Olympics, as the name implies, was limited to Greek Royal Navy sailors. 

There were only three contestants in the contest, and the champion was Greece.

The winning time was nearly a minute slower than that of open 100-meter freestyle winners. Including this event is an interesting concept for the host team to increase their medal count.


Held in Paris in 1900, there was only one croquet game in the Summer Olympics. France won all competitions, as most French competitors took part.

Three women competed, but they didn’t win medals. These were the first women to attend the Olympic Games.

The Weirdest Events in the History of the Summer Olympics
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For the record, organizers were careful to note when an event wasn’t deserving of the Summer Olympics

Most of the events made only one appearance before being withdrawn. 


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