OLYMPIC GAMES

Which sports no longer take place at the Olympics?

Since the first Games were held in Athens in 1896, a whole host of sports and events have been discontinued from the programme.

Which sports no longer take place at the Olympics?
Harry Trump Getty Images

Since the first Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, a whole host of sports and events have been discontinued from the programme. The first Olympic tournament took place from 6 to 15 April and was on a much smaller scale than the modern Games. Just 14 nations, and a total of 241 athletes took part – all from Europe or the United States. There were just 10 events, including track and field athletics, gymnastics, cycling, swimming, fencing, shooting, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling plus road and track events. Other sports, including football, cricket, rowing and yachting didn’t make it to the final programme either because plans were submitted too late or the events were cancelled because of bad weather.

It's just not cricket

By the time of the next Games in Paris in 1900, the number of events had doubled. There have been 30 editions of the summer Olympic Games since the first one in Greece and the sports programme has constantly evolved and changed during the past 120 years. Some sports have disappeared completely, such as Tug of war, which was an event up until it was removed from the programme, amid some controversy, after the 1920 Games. Some sports lasted just one Games, such as croquet which featured both Men’s and Women’s categories in the 1900 edition, before it was removed. Cricket was another event that was discontinued after the Paris because only two teams took part – England and the tournament hosts.

Jeu de paume, an early form of tennis, was on the programme for the IV Olympiad in London in 1908. The United States took the gold medal in the one and only time the sport has featured at an Olympic Games. Lacrosse was a recognised Olympic event in 1904 and 1908 until it too was dropped, only to return a few years later as a demonstration sport only. Water motor sports featured just once, in 1908, with three classes of boats racing five laps of a 70km course.

Pelota, a Basque Country classic.

Basque pelota makes an appearance

To this day, Pelota is hugely popular in the Basque Country but it made just one appearance at the Olympics, and unsurprisingly, it was the Spanish team who took gold. It would be the last time that pelotaris would be seen competing officially out on the frontón, at an Olympic Games. It was later revived as a demonstration sport, most recently at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Polo lasted a little longer. It was first introduced at the Paris Games in 1900 but there were a few logistical snags – shipping horses across the globe being one. It was discontinued after the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Schreiber glides to gold in 1935

Aeronautics has to be the most bizarre sport ever to have appeared on the Olympic programme. I featured just once, in 1935, and there was really no contest as there was only one participant. Switzerland’s Hermann Schreiber won the gold medal for expertly steering his S 18 glider over the Alps in a five-and-a-half-hour flight.

Among the many events that have vanished into the mists of time, at least as far as the Olympics are concerned, include: hurling, Gaelic Football, bowling, pigeon racing, roller hockey, life-saving and kite flying.