Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the live pigeon shooting event at the 1900 Olympics in Paris — the only time in Olympic history when animals were killed on purpose.
Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the live pigeon shooting event at the 1900 Olympics in Paris — the only time in Olympic history when animals were killed on purpose. Popperfoto/Getty Images
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The 1900 Olympic Games in Paris hosted what was surely the weirdest and most bizarre Olympic event of all time: live pigeon shooting.
The winner was Leon de Lunden of Belgium, who bagged 21 of the 300 birds that were released to the gun-toting competitors. Perhaps the sight of all those gory feathers fluttering down from the Olympic sky was too horrible for the audience and the organizers; the event never returned.
It may not have been an official Olympic sport, either — the IOC barely acknowledges Mr. de Lunden or the event in its archives. Yet pigeon shooting is just one of the strange competitions that give the 1900 Paris Olympics the gold for hosting the oddest events.
There were long jump and high jump competitions — for horses. For humans (men only), there was the standing broad jump and the standing high jump, both made without a running start. The gymnastic contestants had to struggle with rope climbing and lifting a stone that weighed 50 kg (about 110 pounds).
The tug-of-war, which had been an event in the ancient Olympics, was revived that year. It had two teams of eight men competing to drag the other over a distance of six feet within five minutes.
The 1900 games also included an aquatic obstacle race, where competitors had to climb over and swim under rows of boats in the River Seine. And there was an underwater swimming contest, which wasn't much of a spectator sport.
Finally, there was another first at the games in Paris: Women were allowed to compete in a couple of events, including croquet. That competition may have been a little too unconventional for the time — only one fan bought a ticket and attended the event. Croquet has not appeared again on the Olympic roster.