There are 302 events scheduled for this year’s Olympic games. If you had to list them all you would struggle to come up with a tenth of the entire list. Some are variations of a sport, like running, rowing, or swimming. But some are delightfully different from the rest, and many people don’t realise they’re Olympic sports at all.
So here’s a list (we like lists).
Modern pentathlon – this is a series of five (hence the ‘penta-‘ prefix) events; shooting, with an air pistol; fencing (sword-fighting); swimming; horse riding; and finally running. These were chosen by the founder of the modern Olympics in 1912 as the five things a 19th-century infantryman would need to do behind enemy lines. Which makes it a very cool sport indeed.
Synchonised swimming – also known as ‘water ballet’, this sport comes from Canada. Think of it as dancing to music in a pool. New Zealand has a duet competing this year.
Tug of war – to be fair, this was only an Olympic sport between 1900 to 1920. But what a sport! Unfortunately New Zealand never entered a team – we would have cleaned up the medals.
Wushu – at each Olympics a ‘demonstration sport’ is chosen, usually by the host country, to promote the sport and to add a little flavour to the games. At the Beijing Olympics Wushu is to be on display (though not officially as a demonstration sport). Wushu (武術) was created in China in 1949 in an effort to nationalise the various martial arts. Sparring one another is part of the sport, and performing a routine, like gymnastics, is also a large part of it – instead of throwing a ribbon and ball about, competitors perform 720 degree jump kicks and backflips while wielding a sword. Awesome.
Trampolining – Competitors bounce and do flips and so on (but without swords). The last time I used a trampoline – at high school – I dislocated a toe, ending any Olympic dreams I had.
Handball – this sport was first in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, as Hitler was a fan. It was re-introduced in the 70s. Handball is a bit like football, but competitors can only use their hands. Sort of like volley ball or netball, I guess. But without nets. Well, sure, there are nets, but like hockey goals. I hope that explains it to you.