We all know the traditional Olympic sports—figure skating, gymnastics, track and field and so forth. Then, there are the more peculiar Olympic events that, despite their curious nature, are still part of the every-four-years discussion. (Curling, we're looking at you.) The Olympic conversation doesn't end there, though. Since the start of the games, demonstration sports have been held. Sometimes, they represent the host nation's tradition (bandy), while others appear as demonstrations on their way to adoption as official sports (basketball, volleyball). Here, collected from the annals of the Olympics, are 10 of the strangest demonstration events of the last century or so.
Photo: Pierre Jacques/Hemis/Corbis
In addition to being one of the best words ever, skijoring is also a pretty cool sport. It involves wearing skis and being towed by dogs, horses or mechanized transportation. (As evidenced in this video clip, it's clearly best when done with miniature horses.) In modern North American skijoring the horses have riders, but—in the way-cooler 1928 St. Moritz demonstration—the horses were riderless. The sport comes from Norway and Sweden, where it was used as a method of military transportation.
Photo: Leo Mason/Corbis
Bandy is sort of the Nordic and Russian version of ice hockey. (Well, to be technical, ice hockey is the North American version of bandy—it was played as early as the 1700s, while ice hockey didn't show up until the 1900s in Canada.) The sports looks similar, but bandy is played with a little ball instead of a puck, goes at a much faster pace and doesn't involve fistfights. It was first played as a demonstration in the 1952 Oslo Olympics, and aficionados still support a return to the games. They may have a case—it will, in fact, be demonstrated at the upcoming Sochi games.
Photo: ANDERS WIKLUND/epa/Corbis
The cool thing about korfball is that it's played with women and men on the same teams. It looks sort of like basketball without dribbling ... and with a soccer ball, a much higher basket (or "korf") and no backboards. It was invented in the Netherlands in 1902, and is also popular in Belgium and Taiwan. It was a demonstration sport in both 1920 and 1928, but has since faded from the Olympic scene.
Played in the 1924 Paris games, la canne translates to "the cane" ... which should give you a pretty good idea of the sport. It's a French martial art that uses a light, slightly tapered chestnut wood cane for fighting. We just love the image of two old men walking down a beautiful Paris street, then suddenly picking up their canes to use as weapons in an unexpected fight. In actuality, that's pretty much what la canne looks like.
Despite appearing in four Olympics from the 1920s to '40s as a demonstration sport, military patrol never made the actual lineup. Somehow, we're not totally surprised that a sport called "military patrol" disappeared even from demonstration after 1948. The sport, which consists of cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering and rifle shooting, is actually pretty similar to today's (less aggressive sounding) Olympic sport biathlon. (Sadly, the sport disappeared before any video evidence was taken ... but we can show you ski mountaineering! It's pretty intense.)
The name pretty much tells you all you need to know about this one. The fast-growing team sport, which used to be called precision skating, will be demonstrated for the first time this year in Sochi. Teams of eight to 20 skaters skate together, making intricate patterns and figures on the ice. Finland and Sweden dominate the world championships with hypnotic, intricate routines. It's like synchronized swimming, but you can actually see full people! And, there are less weird facial expressions. Check out Finland's gold-medal routine from 2013.
Demonstrated in the 1908 London (where else?) games, cycle polo seems to be for those who like the game of polo, but just aren't interested in horses. It actually was invented in Ireland at the end of the 19th century, and peaked in Great Britain in the '30s. Traditionally it's played on grass, but since 2007 the hardcourt game has also become very popular around the world. It's kind of like the X-Games version of the other, more royal sport.
Pigeon racing made its Olympic demonstration debut in 1900, after coming into popularity the century before in Belgium. In the ... well ... sport, pigeon "fanciers" train their birds to fly from any distance back home. We're not exactly sure who the "athletes" are in this event. Though it's an old sport, there's actually advanced technology involved in pigeon racing. The birds wear little bands around their legs, which use something similar to transponder timing to clock the time it takes them to get from a starting line back to their home. Yes, it's that complicated. In action, the birds are actually quite lovely.
Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS
Gaelic football, demonstrated in 1904 in St. Louis, looks like a combination of just about every ball sport that exists: soccer, basketball, football, rugby and even a little bit of volleyball. It originated in Ireland, and is still the most popular sport in the country—games draw an upward of 80,000 spectators. To be honest, the game actually looks pretty fun (and dangerous!) to play.
This Japanese term for martial arts translates to the "Martial Way," and is regarded as more than just a sport. There's a philosophical emphasis to all the moves, and followers know it as a way of life. The 1964 games in Tokyo were, of course, the perfect venue for a demonstration of the practice. With moves like the "flying triangle choke," it's a little bit scary—and very much entertaining—to watch.
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