When people think about the summer Olympics they typically think of things like the 100-meter dash, gymnastics, or swimming if Americans happen to be good at swimming that year. They generally don't think of the stuff that involves horses or guns. The wide world of sports at the Olympics is a lot weirder than you think. Here's your guide to the 20 most obscure sports at the 2012 London Olympics.
That's right, badminton is an Olympic sport. Otherwise known as the sport fancy ladies play while wearing fancy hats during their tea breaks. Just thinking about badminton makes me want to talk in a high-pitched voice and an English accent like a cross between a cross-dressing Monty Python sketch and a Jane Austen novel, except from a much more American perspective. "Oh, hello there, Mrs. Bigglesworth. So nice of your to join. May I interest you in a crumpet during your serve? I assure you they are quite a delight." "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid my dear complexion simply cannot handle sugary confections without breaking out in hives." I think I may have moved to southern lady at some point in my head there.
Shockingly, Indonesia, South Korea, and China have been dominating the world of badminton since it entered the Olympics. Well done to them. Oh, and I wouldn't be the immature creature I am if I didn't get in a single shuttlecock reference. Heh. Shuttlecock.
19. Ping Pong
You just know this is filled with arseholes (the Olympics are in London so we must adopt their swear words). Remember going to rec centers or after-school programs or camp and there was always one kid who was unbelievably better than everyone else at ping pong (probably because his parents were divorced so they bought him a ping pong table to buy his love, but instead he just used that table to work out all the guilt and loneliness their divorce caused him — I'm just guessing) and would take over the one ping pong table and would never relinquish it? He'd just stand there smugly daring people to play him and you had to if you wanted to play ping pong because he'd just camp out there every single day. Eventually people would just stop playing because it was no fun getting creamed by him and he was such an unremitting douche. And one day you'd get there before him and happily start playing with a friend, but then he'd show up and start critiquing the game until it wasn't fun anymore and you just gave up the table to him.
Yea, everyone in this competition is better than that kid. Other than the Chinese competitors who I'm pretty certain go to the Olympics because they outshined everyone else at their ping pong work camp, everyone in this competition is that kid times 1,000.
I'm not going to say anything bad about weightlifters. I don't have a death wish.
17. Water Polo
Ah, finally something that seems like an actual sport ... except I have no idea what the actual rules are. I don't get it. I know it's intense and stuff, but it still comes off as more of the type of game you play at a family reunion than something professionals do on a global stage. How am I supposed to take your sport seriously if you call your method of keeping yourself afloat "eggbeater kicks"?
Sumo is not an Olympic sport. Karate is not an Olympic sport. Why is judo? Judo is the least interesting of those three! There's no punching or kicking. There's just precise throwing. I'm sure judo is cool in its own ways, but I guarantee I'm bored halfway through the first match. Now, sumo? That I'd watch all the way through. Can we swap?
All I know about fencing is that it's a pretty big deal to every rich, preppy douchebag in a movie set in a boarding school (and some at college). Are you a snobby movie villain? Well I've found the sport for you. It takes sword fighting and drains all the fun out of it by smothering it in rules. And yet it's only one of five sports (and the only one on this list) that has been at every single modern Olympic games. Hey, how about we let people use both their hands? How much more interesting would that make fencing? A lot, that's how much. Also, you can't sell me on anything where people wear "breeches" or "knickers." Really, Fencing? That's how you want to play it? I hate you.
Ok, Olympics, now you're just laughing at poor countries. And since when is sailing a sport? Isn't it more an activity for bored rich people? Jeez, no wonder Mitt Romney was able to run this thing (I know he ran the winter Olympics, just suck it up, I'm not going to let fact get in the way of a good joke). I mean, sailing was actually officially called yachting until 1996. Way to just draw a dick on Estonia's face, Olympics (out of 43 countries that have won sailing medals, Estonia ranks 42nd with 2 Bronze medals — Boom! You've been Wikipedia'd).
Another actual sport that I know nothing about. This is the sport you were forced to play in gym class because it was really cool and you were totally going to love it. Only you didn't and everyone broke the rules constantly because no one understood them. Good times.
You play on teams and it's very similar to playing soccer with your hands. The idea is to throw the ball into the goal. The ball is moved up the court by passing, dribbling, and walking. Players can take up to three steps without dribbling and then can take another three steps after they dribble the ball. A player with the ball who stops moving has three seconds to pass the ball. The number three is apparently rather important.
Also, what's considered a foul in basketball, is just considered good defense. Confused yet? I am. Moving on.
There are roughly 60 bajillion marathons every year and I don't care about those. Plus I've never seen an American win one (although, apparently Joan Benoit won at the 1984 Olympics). Look, I understand that it's physically grueling and impressive. I'm impressed. I simply don't think watching it provides much joy. And now for a two-plus-hour-long race. Who does that appeal to?
This year I actually do care, though, because of the story of Guor Marial as seen above. He's running as an independent entrant, but he'll really be running on behalf of the new country of South Sudan which does not yet have an Olympic committee. Go Guor!
In this event people shoot guns. This hardly seems fair to people who have to run around a whole lot for their sport. It especially seems unfair to the winter Olympians who are in the skiing and shooting event who have to do all that skiing first (that event is called the biathlon which is far too mundane for a sport that is skiing and then shooting at stuff).
There are three different types of guns shot in this event: a rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun. The rifle and pistol are fired at target, while the shotgun round is pretty much skeet shooting. Little orange disks are fired into the air and are shot. That's pretty much it. Yea ... sorry marathon people, while you're running for the next two hours, the shooting folks have already finished up without breaking a sweat and are drinking a nice cold one.
Oh good, shooting, yet somehow less relevant. I know everyone's all, "Archery's all cool now! Hunger Games! Avengers! Brave!" But the thing is, archery will never be cool. Archery's cool to that kid in high school who kinda scared you and had a crossbow for no reason that he used to kill squirrels. Everyone else thinks it's kinda lame. There's a reason Hawkeye didn't have his own movie.
Let's bring the archery team to watch the shooting competition so they can wallow in their own obsolescence. It'll be like watching a newspaper reporter trying to understand Twitter. So sad, yet so funny.
9. Synchronized Swimming
How does one decide to become a synchronized swimmer? Are there clubs for this type of thing? Are people recruited? Is it for people who are strong swimmers, but not great swimmers? Is it for great swimmers who love swimming, but hate relevance?
Synchronized swimming is like a ballet routine done in a pool, in unison by an entire team. I don't know what hellspawn invented such a crazy thing or what purpose any of it serves, but its one redeeming gift to humanity is the Spanish Inquisition scene from History of the World Part 1 (as seen above).
If it wasn't enough to have people doing ballet in unison in the water, we now have horse ballet. I don't understand where the athletics come in, except maybe on the horses' part. Do they give the horses the medal? I doubt it.
If I expressed earlier that any of the categories were somehow elitist, I apologize, we've truly found the ultimate sport of the one percent. Hire a trainer to train your horse to dance. The horse does almost all the work, the trainer does the rest, and you get to sit back and take credit for it all. Oh, and you have to own a horse. That's why it's no surprise that Mitt Romney (Hey, Mitt!) has a horse in the dressage competition this year. A horse named Rafalca. Oh, look, Rafalca has her own Twitter account (Hey, Rafalca! Good luck!).
Racewalking is hilarious. Who knew all those mall walkers were training to be Olympians. Racewalking is hilarious because all of its participants are trying to go as fast as they can to win a race, but without running. One foot has to be on the ground at all times or the competitor is disqualified, so stride lengths are reduced. The result is a very funny looking walk. Watch the video and see for yourself. I'll wait.
Did you watch it? Hahahaha. I'm sorry, racewalkers, I know you work hard, but that doesn't make it less funny. I honestly can't think of any way to make fun of racewalking that's funnier than the event itself. Okay, Olympics, you're starting to win me over again.
6. Canoe Slalom
Now we're getting to the really crazy pants stuff. Things are starting to get really awesome here. What? You've never heard of canoe slalom before? Well, today is your lucky day. Canoe slalom is where competitors navigate a canoe or kayak through a course of hanging gates on whitewater rapids as fast as they can. Fastest time wins.
I am in love with this sport. This is like the summer Olympics version of the luge. It's completely and utterly insane. Discovering this event has been like Christmas. Unfortunately the even is held on man-made courses, which I guess probably makes things safer and more consistent. But still ... boooo.
5. 3,000-meter Steeplechase
You know what track and field has been missing all this time? Obstacles. How much cooler does that make it?
This is track and field for the Parkour crowd.
The steeplechase is a 3,000-meter race that has hurdles and water jumps. Except these hurdles are a little different. For starters, they don't fall over, so if you don't make the jump, you're the one falling over. Also, runners are allowed to make it over the obstacle any way they choose, so they can step on top of the hurdle as part of their jump.
Is this crazier than canoe slalom? No. But I wouldn't have been surprised by there being some sort of canoe event. But if you had told be there was an Olympic race with water pits and other obstacles, I would have known you were lying to me.
4. Equestrian Jumping
Back to the horses. Can someone please give a horse a medal. Do the horses need to prove their citizenship in order to compete?
Let's just say you heard the words horse ballet and thought, "Well, I guess that's kind of crazy, but what else you got?" How about a horse obstacle course? Yep, horse obstacle course is an Olympic sport. But that's not all. The obstacles the horses need to steer around or jump over are out-of-their-minds ridiculous. Things like a castle or a re-creation of the planet Saturn.
3. Equestrian Eventing
So, horses jumping over ridiculous items wasn't enough for you? Ok, how about horse triathlon? Horse triathlon. When I first heard that phrase, my brain exploded. I'm only alive today thanks to the power of duct tape.
What? How is a horse triathlon a thing? I guess I should stop asking that after horse ballet and horse obstacle course, but okay.
Eventing includes dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. We already know dressage is horse ballet. Cross-country is a horse obstacle course, but without the crazy obstacles. The obstacles tend to be more along the lines of logs which I guess is less crazy than Saturn. It's an endurance test. Show jumping has the horse given a certain amount of time to, as cleanly as possible, clear the jumps of a course.
2. Modern Pentathlon
Wow. This one actually has its roots in the original Olympics in ancient Greece. Back then the pentathlon was the climax of the games and the winner was given the title "Victor Ludorum." The modern incarnation isn't nearly as popular as the original, but it's just as crazy with five different parts to a single event. The five parts are:
200-meter Freestyle Swimming
3-kilometer Cross-Country Run
Basically, anyone doing the modern pentathlon thinks that the triathlon is for pussies.
I saved the best for last. The craziest, most random and obscure sport in the Olympics is trampoline. Trampoline is its own sport. When you hear that, you think it's stupid. But just watch these guys go! It's mesmerizing. This has to be one of the single most fun events to watch. Remember when I fell in love with canoe slalom? Screw canoe slalom! I have a new lover and its name is trampoline!
Sure, it's not as stupidly dangerous as canoe slalom, but it just looks so cool. And it's so much fun.
The downside is that China's kinda owned the sport for its existence, but we've got some good competitors here in the Ol' US of A. U-S-A! U-S-A!
See? All it took was a trampoline to finally get me in the Olympic spirit.