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Old Olympic Games

With the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed until next summer and itching for our Olympic-fix, we got curious about the history of the games and - more specifically - how the sports and events are chosen. Since the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, a number of events have been discontinued and added over the years. But how is this determined and which ones have been canned?

Terminology baseline: Olympic "sports" are the overall categories in which athletes compete. Within Olympic sports there can be numerous "events". Sports and events can be discontinued for a variety of reasons but usually due to a decline in popularity, which results in less athletes competing and a drop in viewership. Ultimately, the decision lies with the IOC (International Olympic Committee). Factors such as cost, venue needs, media viewership and popularity play a large role. Here are a few Summer Olympic sports that have been discontinued over the years:

  • Croquet

  • Cricket

  • Jeu de Paume

  • Pelota

  • Polo

  • Golf (returned in 2016)

  • Rugby (returned in 2016)

  • Pentathlon of the Muses (the Olympics of art ran from 1912 to 1948 and was surprisingly popular)

  • Baseball (dropped 2012/returning 2021)

  • Softball (dropped 2012/returning 2021)

  • Motorboating (get your mind out of the gutter)

  • Roque

  • Rackets

  • Tug-of-war

  • Lacrosse

And here are a few Olympic events that have been discontinued: 

  • Plunge for Distance

  • Underwater Swimming (’t this swimming?)

  • Standing High-Jump

  • Running Deer 

  • Dueling Pistol (we’re pretty sure this was discontinued early on, based on the name alone)

In the 2021 Summer Olympic Games, gender equality has been an important factor, with events being added/dropped in an effort to level the playing field (pardon the pun):

New Sports:

  • Baseball (returning after a two-game absence)

  • Softball (same as above)

  • Karate

  • Skateboarding

  • Sport Climbing

  • Surfing

New Events:

  • Mixed Archery

  • 3v3 Basketball

  • Boxing (increased weight classes)

  • Canoe/Kayak

  • BMX Park Racing

  • Madison Cycling

  • Fencing (all six events are included and not split between winter/summer)

  • Judo (mixed team event)

  • Rowing (men’s lightweight dropped and women’s lightweight added)

  • Shooting (mixed team event)

  • Swimming (one new distance and mixed gender event added)

  • Table Tennis (mixed doubles)

  • Triathlon (mixed team)

  • Track & Field (mixed gender event)

  • Water Polo (more women’s teams will compete bringing the total number to 10)


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