5 Extinct Olympic Sports

Practitioners of dubiously athletic sports, be warned: While the summer Olympics currently awards medals in table tennis, there's no guarantee it'll stand the test of time. Here are five events eighty-sixed from the Games of the Olympiad.

Sport: Tug-Of-War (pictured above)
Last Year Played: 1920
Reason: Today, tug-of-war is relegated to grade-school gymnasiums, misguided team-building exercises and reality shows such as Survivor. But once upon a time, yanking on a length of rope and sending your opponents tumbling to the ground was considered the height of athletic achievement. The rope-a-dope lasted till 1920, with the group from Great Britain immortalized as the last men standing.

Sport: Jeu de Paume
Last Year Played:
Reason: Centuries ago, the French developed a forerunner to tennis called jeu de paume—that is, "palm game." Contestants took to an indoor court and, using their hands, thwacked a ball back and forth, before the sport evolved to include rackets. In 1908, jeu de paume made its Olympic debut—and departure—during the London Olympiad, where American Jay Gould II bested a field of 11 and won gold.

Sport: Croquet
Last Year Played:
Reason: Along with bocce ball, croquet is one of those lazy-Sunday lawn games best played with a drink in hand. Croquet's first, and only, Olympic appearance took place in 1900, in Paris. The French Olympians did their nation proud, sweeping all the medals—mainly because no one else entered. The 1904 Olympics featured the one and only roque competition (a croquet variation called played on a hard surface instead of grass), which the U.S. swept because, once again, no one else entered.

Sport: Cricket
Last Year Played:
Reason: Just like Brits can't understand American football, cricket perplexes most citizens on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. And thanks to the sport's poor showing in the 1900 Olympics, Americans will never need to decode the phrase "sticky wicket." During those Games, a quartet of teams from France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands were scheduled to compete. However, the Belgians and Dutch dropped out, leaving Great Britain to battle France—a team mainly composed of British expats. Soon after the debacle, the sport was shown the back door.

Sport: Golf
Last Year Played:
Reason: Perhaps if Tiger Woods had been alive in the early 20th century, golf would not have been nixed from the Olympics after the 1904 event, which was an "international" contest only in spirit. Of the 77 competitors that year, 74 were from the United States, while the remaining three golfers hailed from Canada. But don't shed a tear, lovers of holes-in-one: The sport is scheduled to return to the Olympics in 2016.

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—Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein) is a Brooklyn-based journalist and author of Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution.

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