What If These Winter Olympic Events Had Stuck?

The Winter Olympics don’t always get the same level of respect as their summertime cousins. Some argue that the Winter Olympics aren’t Olympics at all, as they’re not at all connected with the Games of ancient Greece. But it’s harder to argue that they’re any less exciting or drama-filled, and they’re certainly far more dangerous. Events like the super-G have people hurtling themselves down iced-over mountainsides, and from the way those luge competitors try to keep themselves perfectly aerodynamic, it sure doesn’t look like they can even see where they’re going.

But the Winter Olympics does have its share of events that some will find peculiar. The biathlon, an event combining cross-country skiing speed and agility with rifle marksmanship, throws a lot of people for a loop until they understand its historic origins in Scandinavian border patrol activity. More recent, “extreme” events like freestyle skiing and snowboarding have a more contemporary than historic feel, but they mesh well with the intense media focus that’s become part of the Games.

Then there are those other events that, for one reason or another, never quite made it. The Winter Olympics have a history of “demonstration” events that have been exhibited at the Games over the decades. Some are shown once, never to be seen again; others make a number of game attempts before resigning themselves to lost-cause status. Then there are those events that actually do become part of official competition only to either fizzle in popularity or just become victims of second-guessing by the International Olympic Committee. Whether they’re a little crazy, lacking in some fundamental appeal or are perhaps too similar to another sport already part of the competition, these are just some of the misfit events that have had their turn in the spotlight only to be set adrift on the ice floe of apathy:

Bandy

Similar to hockey, bandy is played on ice, but on a larger playing surface, with much larger goals and using a ball instead of a puck. Demonstrated at the Oslo Olympics in 1952, the sport has a passionate following, but has failed to catch on in the public imagination — but its enthusiasts still believe its time is coming. Take a look at what the Olympics have been missing … or not, depending on your perspective.

Ice Stock Sport

Another sport that probably lost out due to relative obscurity and/or its similarity to its cousin, curling. Ice stock sport lacks the balletic finesse of curling’s finer moments, and is perhaps a little closer in terms of play to table shuffleboard. There weren’t any clips to be found of a U.S. or even a Canadian team, but as you’ll see, at least a few young folks from Brazil and Germany have embraced it.

Skijoring

The winter equivalent to the sport of kings, skijoring finds the contestants on skis being pulled by dogs, or by horse. Sounds like a lot of fun until you think about what might cause you to wipe out. Skijoring was exhibited at the Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1928, but it seems to have raised more eyebrows than interest. And really, when you think about it, who does the running and who gets the medal?

Sled Dog Racing

Another instance in which competitors are propelled by animal means, sled dog racing went on display in the 1932 Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., but hasn’t been a part of the Olympic scene since. Apparently the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports made a push for the pooches’ welcome in Vancouver this year, to no avail. This segment, from Danish television and shot in Turin in 2006, demonstrates what might have been.

Speed Skiing

Rocketing straight down a mountain without turning sounds so basic it could almost be boring, until you realize that these folks can get up to speeds in excess of 150 mph, which — with skin-tight suits and no roll bars, safety cages or anything other than a simple helmet — makes the prospect of a crash utterly terrifying. Along with curling and freestyle skiing (aerial and ballet), speed skiing was one of the last official demonstration events at the Winter Olympics, in Albertville, France, 1992. OK, go.

Acroski (Ballet Skiing)

Some would say that by the same logic that acroski didn’t survive, figure skating shouldn’t, either. But like it or not, popularity does play a role in what flies and what doesn’t at the Olympic Games, and while ballet skiing was at its hottest in the late ’80s and early ’90s, allowing it to earn a demonstration spot in Albertville in ’92, it went cold faster than a speed skier’s run. Evidence of its being missed still proves elusive. Maybe this explains why: