Demonstration, Exhibition and Unofficial Sports at the Olympics

It is fascinating the large number and variety of sports that have at one time been part of the Olympic Games, either as official or unofficial demonstration (exhibition) sports.

Until recently, most Olympic Games have had a variety of demonstration sports held as part of the Games, held at the same time as official sports but not eligible for medals. At the first few Olympic Games, there were many sporting contests held at the same time, but not all have been given Olympic status, and are deemed unofficial.

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There are some interesting sports that were included as demonstration sports at the Olympic Games, some later becoming part of the official program (such as baseball), others disappearing from world sport altogether (as maybe they should). Some of the more unusual sports include taxi and delivery van racing and cannon shooting in 1900. See the complete list of demonstration sports. See also our list of demonstration sports at the Winter Olympics.

Demonstration sports were not "officially" introduced until 1912, though before then some sports competitions were held simultaneously to the games, and today are considered "unofficial" or demonstration sports as well. A well known example is Pigeon Shooting in 1900.

Originally, demonstration sports and events were included to showcase sports or events which were unique to the country hosting the Games, but recently they were often used as a stepping stone in the application for consideration as a future Olympic medal sport. In 1989, the IOC voted to disallow unofficial demonstration events at Olympics, starting with the 1996 Games.

These days, specific rules that must be followed in order for a sport to be accepted as part of the official program. That means unfortunately for some, fortunately for others, many of the sports described on this website will never be seen again on the world's stage.

balloon competition Olympic Ballooning event from 1900

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Olympics Extra

The next Olympic Games will be the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, followed by the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing. Check out the list of Olympic Games sports, as well as discontinued and demonstration sports.

Major Events Extra

The largest sporting event in the world is the Olympic Games, but there are many other multi-sport games. In terms of single sport events, nothing beats the FIFA World Cup. To see what's coming up, check out the calendar of major sporting events.

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