When you flick through the history books of the Olympic Games, it’s fair to say that the organisers are pretty open minded when it comes to some of the ‘sports’ – inverted commas very much deliberately used – that they welcome into the fold.
And this week it was revealed that another contender for oddest Olympic event has been added in time for the Paris Games in 2024. Breakdancing will be contested for the first time, with the leading movers and shakers from all over the globe expected to compete for the gold medal.
The idea is that they will compete one-on-one in a dance off, with the judges handing out their scores for artistic merit and difficulty of the moves displayed – honestly, we’re not making this up.
A successful trial was undertaken at the Youth Olympics in 2018, and organisers want to tap into that more contemporary feel in the senior Games too. Breakdancing will also appeal to thirty-somethings raised on Run DMC’s ‘It’s Like That’ and the accompanying video, who may just have perfected their own moves on dancefloors in provincial bars and nightclubs up and down the land in their younger days.
The stats reveal that more than one million people worldwide participate in competitive breakdancing, and that the sport’s biggest event – Red Bull BC One World Final – has been streamed by more than 50 million too.
The decision to add breakdancing to the schedule was confirmed on Monday by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who also revealed that skateboarding, climbing and surfing – which will be contested at the rescheduled 2020 Games – have also been retained.
What are the Most Unusual Olympic Events of All Time?
The 2024 Olympics in Paris really will have a diverse feel, with sports as wide-ranging as softball, synchronised swimming and BMX racing also on the schedule.
But these only scratch the surface of the most bizarre or unexpected sports to be contested at the Olympic Games, and the further back in time we go the more unusual the list gets.
Handball is still a popular event at the Games, but for a while it was ‘field handball’ – a sport with the same rules but played outdoors – that was on the rota in 1926.
It’s amazing to think that sports like golf have only just returned to the Olympic schedule and that rugby union or league have never been part of the Games. Especially so when you consider the sports that have featured at least once – tug of war, motorboating and croquet have all been competed in at one time or another.
For pub quiz fanatics, it’s worth being in the know about four former Olympic sports that are little known today. Basque pelota, played at the 1900 Games also in Paris, is a sport which sort of combines tennis, squash and lacrosse – you kind of have to see it to understand.
Jeu de paume, contested at the 1908 Games in London, is often referred to as ‘real tennis’, and is similar in character to tennis as we know it today, while racquets (also 1908) combines the rules of squash with the techniques of tennis.
And finally we have roque, played at the 1904 Games in St Louis, Missouri. This is, in all but name, very similar to croquet, which was already an Olympic sport in 1900.