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Monday, August 9, 2004
Updated: August 10, 8:12 AM ET
Discontinued Olympic events

By Jeff Merron
Page 2

Just because they're gone doesn't mean they can't be brought back (except for solo synchronized swimming -- that can never return). Here are the 10 events we'd most like to see again.

10. 17-man naval rowing boats -- (Athens, 1906)
A 3,000-meter race, included as part of what was called 'The Second International Olympic Games in Athens' in 1906 -- 10 years after the first Modern Games. (In 1949, Avery Brundage decided that the 1906 competition shouldn't 'officially' count as an Olympic Games.) We figure the toughest part was making sure everyone was aboard. Should be required for every NFL team during training camp; counting takes practice, too.

Steelers
Even if the Steelers boat sank, Bill Cowher would still be the coach.
9. Dueling pistols -- (Athens, 1906, and Stockholm, 1912)
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr didn't just leave a political legacy, they left a sporting one, too. Shooters took aim at the chest of dummies wearing frock coats (talk about false modesty). Our proposed change: banjos, not pistols.

8. Tug of war -- (1900-1920)
A simple classic that has a schoolboy/girl base in the millions already. The biggest controversy in this four- and eight-man event came in 1908, when the Liverpool police team competed in what the New York Times described as "enormous shoes, so heavy, in fact, it was with great effort they could lift their feet from the ground." The rules stipulated ordinary shoes, and the Americans protested, but to no avail. The U.S. subsequently withdrew, but London's police defeated Liverpool's cheats, and the Brits swept.

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7. Croquet (Paris, 1900)
The breakthrough sport for female Olympians -- the first women to take part in the Games first took to the croquet pitch on June 28, 1900 in Paris. According to the official report of the Olympics, there were four different events, but, "This game ... has hardly any pretensions to athleticism." Downside: could inspire the poker honchos to plug for inclusion. Paid attendance: 1. Really.

6. Combined: figure riding, polo, and club swinging (Figure riding, Antwerp, 1920; polo, 1900-1936; club swinging, St. Louis, 1904, and Los Angeles, 1932)
These three old events we'd like to see combined into a bigger, better, new one. Figure riding: Imagine figure skating with horses but no ice. Polo -- we'll let the rider keep his mallet. And club swinging: this was a gymnastics event that involved a club decorated with colorful streamers. Men on horses, making acrobatic moves, jumping on, off, and over their horses, all the while twirling mallets and clubs -- that's the ticket.

5. 100 meter freestyle for sailors -- (1896, Greece)
The Greeks guaranteed themselves a sweep by banning entrants from other countries. This is a classic fascist idea that might inspire patriotic Olympic CEOs to also get the trains to run on time. Should be contested with the same rules, so the host country can have something to brag about.

Michigan State
No doubt Michigan State would be a big feeder school for chariot hopefuls.
4. Chariot racing -- (ancient Olympics)
This was an ancient Olympic event contested primarily by the well-to-do (who could afford horses and chariots and riders to do the dirty work). The fun part was that the races took place in the stadium and resembled a demolition derby more than a race. One rule change: the owners ride. Let's get Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Kenneth Lay, and some of the oil sheiks going at it. Ratings would go through the roof. Any network honchos listening?

3. 56 pound weight throw -- (1904 and 1920, St. Louis and Antwerp)
Patrick McDonald, who won this event the second (and last) time it was held, was a medalist in two discontinued events -- the two-handed shot, in which he took silver in 1912, and the 56 pounder, in which he won gold.

When the 6-foot-5-inch, 325-pound Times Square traffic cop returned home after his Antwerp victory, his father barely took note of his great achievement. McDonald related this story to New York Times columnist Arthur Daley. "When I got to me family cottage, 'shure, what did I see but a crowd gathered around. They were watching me sainted father pitchin' a fifty-six-pound weight over the roof. 'Twas astounded I was that he'd be a-heavin' the weight with no one to watch where it fell. 'Bosh, man,' explained me father, 'get along wid ye, Pat. is it not your grandfather I have a catchin' it on the other side and tossin' it back to me?'"

2. Plunge for distance -- (St. Louis, 1904)
You could also call it the diving long jump. William Dickey led a five-man U.S. sweep in the event held on Sept. 5, 1904, submerging himself for 62 1/2 feet on a single breath. Some say it was discontinued, in part, because, well, what about the spectators? But now that Olympic pools have built-in underwater cameras, it's time for the event to return. Apparently we're not the only ones: Carleton College recently held both men and women's competitions in its alumni swim meet,

1. 200-meter obstacle race -- (Paris, 1900)
Ah, to swim in the Seine. Over a pole, over and under rowboats. Australia's Freddie Lane, 20, had already won the won the 200 meter freestyle (instead of a gold medal, he got to lug home a 50-pound bronze horse as his prize). He also won the obstacle event because he was both fast and smart, knowing that the stern was the best way to get into (and therefore over) a boat. His mark of 2:38.4 was only 13 seconds slower than his time without things in the way. One element of the Paris swimming events that should also return: swimming in a river, with the current.