Ski ballet Photo: Getty Images
Ski ballet Photo: Getty Images


Weird games from the Olympics

South Korea's Pyeongchang hosts the Olympic Winter Games this month. When the first Games were held in 1924, athletes competed in just five sports, but over the years many less orthodox sports have sought Olympic recognition. Here are some of the more unusual ones.

Winter pentathlon

 Featured in the Olympics only once – in 1948 as a demonstration sport – winter pentathlon was a spectacular sport which included cross-­country skiing, shooting, downhill skiing, horseback riding and, surprisingly, fencing. The event was dominated by Swedish athletes, with Sweden’s Gustaf Lindh taking the gold medal. 

Photo: IBL


 Skijoring originates from Scandinavia and is a sport in which competitors wear skis and clutch reins attached to a wooden harness fitted onto one or more horses or dogs. The sport can take various forms from precision-based events to obstacle races or flat races around an oval track. Skijoring made its Olympic debut at St. Moritz in 1928 as a demonstration sport. The competition was held on a frozen lake with horses doing the pulling, and a large crowd gathered to see team Switzerland earn a ­victory.

Ski ballet

Also known as acroski, ski ballet was a demonstration sport at the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics. It closely resembles figure skating, with competitors performing flips, jumps and rolls – except on skis. West Germany’s Hermann Reitberger took the top spot in Calgary in 1988, while at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France’s Fabrice Becker won. The IOC how­ever did not believe in show dance and declined to make ski ballet an official Olympic sport. 

Photo: SZ-Photo / IBL Bildbyrå

Military patrol 

 This team sport was in fact included in the official program of the Olympics, but only once – at the inaugural Games in 1924. Switzerland won. ­Athletes competed in cross-­country skiing, ski mountaineering and rifle shooting. The climb was often steep and the athletes all had to wear military uniforms and heavy backpacks to simulate the rigors of a military soldier. Each patrol also had an officer as its leader. Military patrol made a re­appearance as a demonstration sport at Garmisch-­Partenkirchen in 1936 and St. Moritz in 1948. Today, it’s considered a forerunner to the modern biathlon.

Dogsled racing

 As a popular sport in snowy regions in Norway, Russia, the US and Canada, dogsledding has many enthusiasts who would like to see it become an official Olympic sport. It was included as a demonstration event in the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, but the sport’s international appeal was limited, and only athletes (and dogs) from Canada and the US took part. Emile St. Goddard of Canada won.  

Last edited: February 8, 2018

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