Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Bring Back The Real Olympic Games!

Like many people, I don’t like watching track or field sports, cycling, sailing or swimming on the box.  I’m in trouble then, because our televisions are about to be swamped by the Olympic Games.  So far the most tedious aspects of the coming event have been its relentless trailing, and coverage of the torch thing as it trundles round Britain.

But the Games weren’t always as awful.  Our foreparents knew how to enjoy themselves, with a variety of sports which show just how much we’re missing out today.

Shooting has long been included in the competition, first appearing in 1896. While competitors usually aim at disc-shaped clay pigeons, the 1900 Games in Paris adopted livelier targets: real pigeons were released, and more than 300 were killed.  But even in such unenlightened times there was a degree of protest, and from then on Olympics officials decided to skip the living targets.

Croquet was the first Olympic event in which women participated, its only appearance also at the 1900 Paris games.  Just a French team entered, while a single spectator purchased a ticket to watch. Afterwards an official report concluded croquet involved “hardly any pretensions to athleticism” and the measured, courtly game was dropped.  

In 1984 the rather contradictory sport of solo synchronised swimming appeared.  Surprisingly the event was retained for the Seoul Games four years later, and again at Barcelona in 1992.  Afterwards though, other participants were added and the event became a team competition, which probably made more sense.

The unusual art of pistol duelling has also featured, in the 1906 Athens Games. Disappointingly the event consisted of no actual duelling; competitors merely shot at plaster dummies dressed in frock coats, from a distance of 20 or 30 meters. An opinion poll held in Australia before Sydney 2000 found 32% of those asked wanted the sport revived.

If it helps, the countdown to the end of the London 2012 Olympics is currently 26 days, 10 hours and 5 minutes.

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