04 Aug 2012

Defunct Olympic Sports

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Live Pigeon Shooting

Watching the Olympic Games this time around, the wife and I puzzled as usual as to why team games in general, footling games like table tennis, and certain activities amounting more to entertainment than displays of athletic prowess (synchronized diving, for example) are considered worthy of the Olympics while some events included in the past were eliminated from the Games.

DayRiffer lists a number of events that were purged from the Olympic schedule.

Ancient Olympic competitions tested not only athletic skills but creative, intellectual, and rhetorical powers, as well. Poetry, music, and eloquence were just three of the “events” contested at the ancient Games.

The modern-day Games are supposedly devoted to testing athletic prowess exclusively, though many surprising events have found their way onto the Olympic docket, primarily in the earliest Games – in Athens in 1896, Paris in 1900, St. Louis in 1904, and Athens again, site of the Interim Olympic Games in 1906. The following events have since been removed from the Olympic program, often after one appearance and usually with good reason.

• Live pigeon shooting (1900). This is the only event in Olympic history in which animals were killed intentionally. Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the gold medal, with 21 birds killed, one more than Frenchman Maurice Faure bagged.

• A 100m freestyle swim that was open only to members of the Greek navy (1896).

• Tug-of-war (1900-20). In 1908, after a humiliating first-round loss to the British, the Americans protested that the British had used illegal spiked boots. When the protest was disallowed, the Americans withdrew.

• Croquet (1900).

• Dueling pistols (1906).

• Plunge for distance (1904).

• Underwater swimming (1900).

• The standing broad jump (1900-12).

• The standing long jump (1900-12).

• The standing triple jump (1900 and 1904).

• Motor boating (1908).

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National Geographic has a slideshow which adds a couple more.

So, why is ping pong an Olympic sport and not Croquet? Jeu de palme certainly looks more worthy of representation than table tennis.

The elimination of live Pigeon Shooting after 1900 was, of course, a terrible surrender to the bleeding hearts and reformers. Clearly this was the point when Western Civilization began going to hell in a handcart. Pigeon Shooting is a very challenging sport, which in the old days attracted the participation of many of the most renowned target shooters and game shots, European royalty, and all sorts of illustrious sportsmen, including Ernest Hemingway. Pigeon Shooting significantly excelled skeet and trap in difficulty, and provoked the creation by the high-end gun makers of a special, well-balanced but relatively heavy, long-barreled, and tightly-choked form of shotgun which many regarded as the supreme expression of the gun maker’s art. The loss of Live Pigeon Shooting is a serious loss to the shooting sports.

You mustn’t live shoot “rats with wings,” but it’s perfectly fine to watch the Olympic Games and then go dine on chicken or steak. The problem with Live Pigeon Shooting is the usual urban difficulty with actually seeing one’s dinner’s demise, not a genuine commitment to Ahimsa.

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