Meadville Tribune

National Sports

July 25, 2012

When the Olympics included mud fighting and tug of war

(Continued)

The organizers in 1904 also had the effrontery to conduct a two-day experiment called Anthropology Days. The exhibits at the fair were designed to demonstrate the progress of humanity from barbarism to the pinnacle of Anglo-Saxon civilization, and this was exemplified by a series of exhibits contrasting various races and peoples, including American Indians and Philippine natives.

The fair organizers thought it would be good to allow the natives to compete, too, in some of their indigenous sports, as well as other more common ones, though this served mainly to mock them. The native peoples — including not only American Indians and Filipinos but also Africans and Syrians — often had no knowledge of the sports they were asked to attempt, which included sprinting and shot putting, but also throwing bolos, mud fighting and climbing a greased pole.

Writing later about the Anthropology Days, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, presciently said: "As for that outrageous charade, it will of course lose its appeal when black men, red men, and yellow men learn to run, jump, and throw, and leave the white men behind them."

Other Olympic sports since abandoned were simply intended to be competitions among all available athletes. Tug of war was quite popular, being held in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920, before falling from the program. Lacrosse was contested in 1904 and 1908, and in 1904, a Mohawk Indian team from southern Ontario placed third. This is why we have Olympic medalists with the wonderful names of Almighty Voice, Black Eagle, Half Moon, Lightfoot and Man Afraid Soap.

In 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936, polo was an Olympic sport, falling from grace only after Berlin in 1936. It was the last sport to have been discontinued, until baseball and softball were ousted from the 2012 games. They are to be replaced in 2016 by golf and rugby sevens — a smaller, shorter variant of rugby union. These two sports won out over karate, squash, roller skating and ballroom dancing — but neither will be new to the Olympics. Golf was contested at those unusual Olympics of 1900 and 1904, and was on the program for both 1908 and 1920, though it was canceled both times. Rugby tournaments were held in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924. The United States won gold twice, in 1920 and 1924 — which is why when the sport returns in four years, the defending champions will be those great practitioners of the game, the U.S.

And so it goes. Many sports want to be on the Olympic program, but many more have left the stage. No, the London organizers will not be placing a series of obstacles in the Thames, and asking the swimmers to make their way over them.

--

Bill Mallon is a previous president and co-founder of the International Society of Olympic Historians.

Text Only
National Sports
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg One-sided ruling against Rodriguez makes statement for clean baseball

    Alex Rodriguez's team of lawyers and public relations people portray him as the victim of a conspiracy. Regardless of the defense Rodriguez offers, the New York Yankees star isn't believable.

    January 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why do pro athletes recover before you do?

    It's a mystery: When we twist our ankle playing tennis, it can take weeks to heal, but when a pro athlete does it, he often misses barely a beat.

    November 15, 2013

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Changes to NCAA foul rules could lead to free-throw marathons

    I attended a Big Ten basketball game in Bloomington, Ind., a few years ago where I was seated so close to the floor that I had to keep my feet pinned under my chair so I wouldn’t trip the referee as he raced up and down the court. The view from courtside left me with one shocking reaction: I no longer had any idea what was a foul.

    November 5, 2013 1 Photo

  • Coaches grapple with line between discipline and abuse

    The outrage was visceral last spring when ESPN aired the damning video showing Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice shoving his players, hurling gay slurs and throwing basketballs at their heads.

    November 1, 2013

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Is the NCAA a sinking ship?

    The daily flow of bad news chronicling the NCAA seems to fall somewhere between damaging and defeated. By comparison, the NCAA’s myriad problems make the Obama Administration’s roll out of the Affordable Care Act look smooth.

    October 30, 2013 1 Photo

  • spt_cardscelebrate.jpg VIDEOS: Memorable MLB postseason celebrations

    Some of baseball's most enduring October memories are punctuated by jubilant celebrations. Take a look back at some of the most memorable expressions of joy in Major League Baseball's postseason by players and teams after the final out.

    October 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • spt_siegrist.jpg The most insufferable fans in sports live in St. Louis

    The Cardinals are a very good baseball team. Their fans have every right to be happy. You can't blame the rest of us for not sharing their joy, though.

    October 17, 2013 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Maybe we should rethink the post-game handshake

    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has advised educators to rethink the long-standing tradition of teams shaking hands after athletic events. Is sportsmanship dead in the Bluegrass State?

    October 16, 2013 1 Photo

  • Turner Field Dangerous, deadly falls from sports stadiums A 30-year-old man fell about 65 feet to his death at an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field Monday evening. Details on what caused the fall are unknown. There have been several other deadly or dangerous falls in sports stadiums in recent years.

    August 14, 2013

  • FBN-INJURE211.jpg NFL injury risk has Hall-of-Fame dad concerned for rookie son

    Kyle Long is going into the family business. "Some people are third-generation carpenters, and that's what they do," his father says. "Well, we hit people."

    July 23, 2013 2 Photos

Business Marquee
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks