For the 2020 Olympiad in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee will be adding sports like skateboarding and surfing to the games for the first time. But there are a lot of old-school sports that they should consider adding as well. Here are five throwback events we'd like to see brought into the Summer Olympics.
This sport is like Greco-Roman UFC. Two contestants would beat each other with their bare hands, feet, elbows, et cetera until one submitted. Everything was permitted except hitting genitals, gouging eyes, noses or mouths with your fingers or biting. Here's how the website Ancient Olympics describes the event's appeal.
"Pankration was the favourite sport of the spectators. At those games where money could be won, the winning pankratiast received the highest prize-money of all the winners, except for the winners of the equestrian events. The Greeks regarded it as the ultimate test in strength and technique. So it was clearly more than brute force."
Here's the sport in action.
2. Chariot Racing
If you're unfamiliar with these races involving contestants in wheeled carts pulled by teams of two or even four horses, then check out the clip from Ben-Hur below. According to the American Museum of Natural History, chariot racing is among the oldest and most thrilling sports in human history.
"In ancient Greece, one of the most gripping - and dangerous - athletic events for both horses and men was the chariot race, a sport that dates back at least to 700 BC. Spectators gathered to watch as horse teams pulled drivers in two-wheeled carts around a track with hairpin turns at each end."
And the arena for chariot racing had the coolest name: the hippodrome.
3. Pistol Duelling
The 1906 Olympics in Athens had a distinctly western flavor because pistol duelling was added as an event. But contestants didn't walk 20 paces, turn and fire at each other. Instead, they showed off their shooting skills by taking aim at plaster dummies dressed in frock coats and placed 20 or 30 meters away from the competitors.
And there's interest in bringing this competition back. According to TIME magazine, a poll conducted in 2000 found that 32 percent of viewers wanted to see pistol duelling revived as an Olympic event.
If you're interested in how sports broadcasters might cover pistol duels, check out this sketch that re-enacts the infamous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
Okay, this event was never in the Olympics - not yet, at least. But jousting was all the rage in medieval Europe. For centuries, spectators gathered around the lists - a.k.a. the playing field - to watch their favorite knights try to unhorse each other by breaking lances on their chests. And according to Britain's History Channel, today's sports culture can trace its roots back to the old jousting circuits.
"Medieval heralds, quite like today’s sports journalists, promoted the events through poems and songs and helped spread the jousters’ fame. In many ways, these knights were the star athletes of their day. Just like with today’s modern-day athletes and sports franchises, rivalries soon formed as the knights fought each other again and again while travelling the jousting 'circuit.'”
So A Knight's Tale wasn't exaggerating when Chaucer (Paul Bettany) introduced William Thatcher (Heath Ledger).
Unlike the other sports on this list, tug-of-war is still widely played around the world. The Tug of War International Federation has over 50 member countries, including perennial Olympic contenders like America, Russia, Australia and China. Yet tug-of-war hasn't been in the Summer Olympics since the 1920 games in Antwerp.
According to the old rules, an eight-man team had to pull their opponents six feet to win automatically. Otherwise, the team that pulled their opponents the furthest would be given the gold model after the clock ran out. But the game could be updated with all sorts of crazy rules. Tug-of-War with chariots, maybe.