Sporting Events That Make The Olympics What They Are Today

By Aakash M November 14, 2021

Undoubtedly, the Olympics is one of the most highly awaited sporting events worldwide. We all know that it takes place once every four years. However, these games give us two exciting weeks of sports, which many of us largely ignore for the four years until it’s time for the Olympics! Gymnastics and swimming are two such sports that dominated the broadcast during this time. Sports like handball and water polo also gain the spotlight. Many people from all countries disregard these events for four years straight, although they support their national teams and even follow them to an extent. But, the best thing is that despite everything, people feel very prideful when they see a player dawning the colors of their national flag, representing their country on such a big stage, winning a medal, and making the country proud. So, here are 45 of the best Olympic Sporting Events from the past that have stood the test of time!


The Summer Olympics Debuted in 1896. From what we’ve witnessed, most sports are straightforward and are complicated to understand, like track running – the one who runs faster wins. When discussing sprints, these races are over in a matter of seconds!

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Sprint running is a sport that catches the eye because it is fast and to the point. It is one of the highlights of the Olympics. Consider the men’s 100-meter final race. The winner of the race is going to be the ‘fastest man on earth.’ Doesn’t all of that heat things up a notch?


This sport first appeared in the 1896 Summer Olympics. During the early years of the century, Austria, France, and Germany were three of the most prosperous nations in weightlifting. Later on, the Soviet Union dominated the weightlifting sport till the early 90s, until weightlifters from China, Turkey, Greece, and Iran rose to prestige.

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Weightlifting is quite an ancient sport. Athletes need to lift a barbell full of plates from the ground over their head. There are three weightlifting moves that many people are familiar with: the snatch, clean, and jerk. The former is a wide-grip lift executed in one motion, and the latter is a combination lift.

Ice Hockey

The origin of Ice Hockey is based on various other sports in Europe. Around 1860, the puck was replaced by a ball, and two students from McGill University formulated the first rules after some years. In 1880, ice hockey became Canada’s national sport, and in 1920, it debuted at the Winter Olympics.

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You can enjoy this sport during Winter Olympics only. Many people consider Ice Hockey an exciting team sport. There is a lot of build-up, excitement, and tension in the atmosphere at a hockey game, which also helps draw massive crowds at the Olympics.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine Skiing debuted in the 1936 Winter Olympics. However, modern downhill skiing dates back to the mid 19th century. Norwegian skier Sonde Norheim was the person who popularized skiing. Yet, it is known that it has been an essential part of life in cold countries for centuries.

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In this game, the athletes slide down slopes covered with snow on skis. The main difference in alpine skiing is that this sport involves using fixed-heel bindings with skis, unlike free-heel bindings in other skiing sports. The skiers move super fast, and many views find it thrilling.


Swimming debuted at the 1896 Summer Olympics and is one of the five original sports of the Olympics. In the early days, swimmers used breaststroke. Now, there are a lot of variations. Here is an interesting fact: Swimming has the second-highest number of events contested for Olympic medals, following track and field!

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The USA has dominated swimming for a very long time. American swimmer Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian of all time, with 28 Olympic medals under his belt, out of which 23 are gold medals. He is also the record-holder of the highest number of gold medals won by a male athlete.


Judo is a traditional Japanese sport derived from Jujitsu, which was the combat technique used by ancient samurais of Japan. It debuted in the 1964 Summer Olympics. In this sport, the opponents have to throw each other to the floor and hold them until submission to win. 

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The fun part is that in Japanese, Judo means the way of suppleness. However, in reality, the five-minute rounds in judo matches are anything but gentle. Not only that, but it is a sport that is as physically demanding as wrestling, boxing, or other combat sports.


As compared to other sports, this one is recently developed. Developed by a Track Club in the 70s as an alternative to the rigorous track running, the first event consisted of a run (10km), a cycle (8km), and a swim (500m). It debuted in the 2000 Summer Olympics.

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Athletes in triathlons compete for the fastest completion time. It is quite an exciting sport, and more races are added every year as it continues to grow. Today, the official distance for swimming in a triathlon is 1.5km. For cycling and running, it is 40km and 10km respectively.


Volleyball debuted in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. For many, volleyball is considered to be a less taxing alternative to basketball. Volleyball gained a lot of popularity in very little time. Japan started playing volleyball back in 1896. It quickly developed in the next two decades, and many Asian countries also started following volleyball closely.

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Soon, rules were formulated, and a ball designed especially for volleyball came into the picture. It was also the time when the six-a-side teams were standardized, and the rules about three hits were devised. Today, volleyball ranks among the most popular sports, especially in the Olympics.


Tennis debuted in the Athens Olympics in 1896, so it’s a game with a long history. But, it was born in England. Surprisingly, its origin traces back to 11th century France where a game called ‘jeu de paume’ was played with walls and sloping roofs for the court and hands for hitting the ball.

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Tennis is a game where a player’s personality shines through, and you can also get to know who you’re watching pretty well. Tennis is also quite tiring, psychologically challenging, and last but not least, fashionable! Sports isn’t a place where fashion matters, but tennis has always prioritized style and functionality.


Taekwondo has come a long way in these years. It went from being a demonstration sport at the 1992 Olympics to becoming a full medal sport from the 2000 Summer Olympics. The format is simple. It consists of an elimination tournament for each weight category.

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As of today, it is widely practiced in over 206 countries. The literal meaning of taekwondo is the way of kicking and punching. Competitors can use both their hands and their feet, but the highlight of the sport is the lethal kick combinations.


Biathlon is one such sport that uses the combination of skiing with marksmanship, which means that it requires aggression and a calm demeanor at the same time. For those who don’t know, it is the combination of two sports: skiing and shooting. This sport debuted in the 1960 Winter Olympics. 

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Viewers can only enjoy it during the Winter Olympics, and it’s a renowned sport in Europe. Earlier, people only used to watch alpine and cross-country skiing. But, ever since the biathlon came into the picture, it has always attracted huge crowds. There is high excitement and emotion when a competitor takes a shot or misses it!

3×3 Basketball

Debuted in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is one of the most recent games. It is a variation of basketball. The difference is that it is played with three players on each side. Although it’s relatively new, it is already the most prominent urban team sport worldwide!

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Inspired by many forms of basketball played in the streets, 3×3 basketball is quite a flexible sport, and it is easy for anybody to play anywhere. All you need to play is six players, a hoop, and half a court.


The scoring in this sport is based on the difficulty level and also on the total amount of time the competitors spend in the air (seconds). Similarly, points are deducted for poor form and displacement from the center. It debuted in the 2000 Summer Olympics, with competitions for men and women, which have not changed since then.

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The first modern trampoline was built back in 1934 for training astronauts and also for training gymnasts and divers. But, it became so popular that it turned into a recreational activity, and now, it is a competitive Olympic sport where athletes perform acrobatics by bouncing on it.

Break Dancing

This is a sport that will be a part of the 2024 Paris Olympics. However, it appeared in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics, with three competitions. One of them was for men, one for women, and the third competition was mixed-gender.

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Better known as breakdancing, it is a form of street dance that originated in the 70s in New York. Although it started from the streets, it has developed and gained a lot of popularity as a dance form. It combines music, dance, and athleticism.

BMX Freestyle

It is another sport that debuted recently in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It started in the 60s in California. BMX Freestyling developed as a separate sport from BMX Racing during that time, and it gained popularity in the 80s. It included two competitions, for men and for women respectively.

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In this sport, riders perform various routines that consist of a sequence of tricks on the ground or in the streets. These tricks are also carried out on half pipes, dirt, and constructed ramps. Riders in BMX freestyle are judged on the quality of how they perform.


Boxing made its Olympic debut in the 1904 Summer Olympics. SIt has been a part of the event ever since, except the 1912 Olympics. There was a development in the rules since the 80s, and point-scoring was standardized in 2007. There are ten events for men in boxing and three for women.

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Boxing is a widely-loved sport worldwide because it is highly passionate. There is an adrenaline rush, and it is pretty easy to get nervous with all the emotions. The intensity is what makes it so exciting and popular. It is also quite unpredictable, considering the wild fights, knockouts, and results.


This sport debuted in the 1900 Summer Olympics, and although it didn’t appear until 1912, it has appeared in every edition since then. The existing disciplines of equestrian are Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping. It is one sport where both genders compete equally.

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Equestrian is a great sport to watch, and a lot of credit goes to the horses. Horses are beautiful animals, and how one rides a horse says a lot about mutual respect and the bond with the horse. The sport is entertaining to watch, and it improves the rider’s fitness because all muscles are put to rigorous work.


Futsal is a sport that was featured in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games. It is a five-a-side variation of football. Futsal is also the only version of indoor football that FIFA approves. It originated from South America, and as of today, it’s a prevalent sport worldwide.

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Participation in futsal is still growing. According to FIFA, more than 30 million people play futsal globally (estimation). Because the pitch is smaller and the players are fewer, the constant involvement of players in the game increases. Thus, it helps improve the learning curve and skill set of players.

Sport Climbing

Competitors have to climb a particular frame in this sport. It has gained a lot of popularity and has come a long way over the past two decades. According to a study in 2012, 25 million people climb regularly. It debuted in the 2020 Summer Olympics. 

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Activities like wall climbing and its development have helped a lot in increasing the popularity of sport climbing. In the Olympics, players were evenly split into two groups. They were competing in three disciplines: bouldering, lead climbing, and speed.

Ski Mountaineering

It is a sport that has only been a part of the Youth Olympics. But, it is set to be a part of the 2026 Winter Olympics. In ski mountaineering, the competitors have to ski up and down while also using their mountaineering skills to pass through the snowy mountains.

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Its popularity is rapidly increasing worldwide, thanks to the various international events taking place in many countries where the sport is possible. Also known as skimo, it dramatically helps build strength and endurance because players have to race without conveyance.

Short Track Speed Skating

Short Track Speed Skating made its Olympic debut at the 1992 Winter Olympics. The competition consisted of two individual events and one relay event for men and for women. Now, it includes eight events of the discipline. It gained a lot of popularity because watching people race rapidly on tracks thrills the audience.

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It gets fascinating and intense because the players are racing very close to each other since the tracks are so tight. Because of that, collisions and falls become inevitable. It is also why the walls of the oval are padded.

Artistic Swimming

This sport made its debut in the 1984 Summer Olympics. It is considered a recent discipline that originates from water acrobatics. During its debut, it consisted of solo and dual events. It is also known as synchronized swimming in many countries.

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Here is an interesting fact that you probably weren’t aware of: Artistic swimming is the only sport, along with rhythmic gymnastics and softball, that is exclusively for females! The goal of each performance is syncing with the music, artistic impression, and technical excellence.

Baseball and Softball

Interestingly, baseball was featured numerous times in the Olympics program as a demonstration sport before softball finally made its way to being a medal event at the 1992 Summer Olympics. As many of you probably know, baseball is for men, and softball is for women.

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Many of us know how to play baseball. But, softball is the women-only counterpart to baseball in the Olympics. The significant difference is field and ball size. Pitchers need to throw underhand, and the pitching distance is shorter than baseball. The duration of the game is also a bit shorter.


It was quite a popular sport in the 18th and 19th centuries and was frequently practiced by gymnasts. The popularity started spreading in the late 19th century, from Sweden to Great Britain. In 1904, Diving debuted in the Summer Olympics.

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The earlier Olympic competitions were quite different from the ones that exist today. A considerable difference is the height of the platform and the springboard. Diving has been relatively stable since the 1928 Olympics: There is a ten-meter high-dive and a three-meter springboard event for both men and women.

Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle Skiing debuted in the 1992 Winter Olympics. This sport consists of various techniques, including different aerial flips and spins that a skier performs. It started taking off in the USA in the 60s. In the early 70s, freestyle skiing was known as hotdogging. 

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The name fits quite appropriately for freestyle skiing, and it is also a marvel to watch. It always keeps the audience on the edge of their seats because it involves such a breathtaking mixture of various acrobatic tricks and jumps. The adrenaline rush of all of it intensifies things further.


Sailing is a sport that requires a lot of skill and experience because the competitors have to master the dynamic weather conditions. It debuted in the 1900 Summer Olympics, and it has evolved in many ways as a sport since then.

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The races happen in a fleet racing format, which means that fleets of boats that are equally matched will race at the same time. These courses have also been designed to incorporate numerous sailing angles, including upwind, downwind, and reaching.


Rowing is another sport that debuted at the 1900 Summer Olympics. These races are segregated into sculling and sweep oar. The rower holds one oar in the latter, while the former event uses two oars. Women’s rowing debuted in the 1976 Olympics.

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Rowing was a part of all Olympic games, except the 1896 Olympics. It was set to be on the program but got canceled because of the stormy sea. Rowing is one of the very few sports where coordination, balance, and being in sync are highly critical for gaining speed.


Luge debuted in the 1964 Winter Olympics. In this sport, riders lay on their back on a sled and speed down a slippery ice track. Competitors have to rely on their reflexes for steering. The only condition here is that there is no protection, so the competitors can’t afford to make a mistake.

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Although its roots go back to the 16th century, it extensively developed in Switzerland. Luge is among the oldest winter sports. There is a singles event and even a pairs event. In the pairs event, the team member who is larger than the other lies on the top for improved aerodynamics.

Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon debuted in the 1912 Summer Olympics. Back in the day, it involved running, jumping, spear-throwing, discus, and wrestling. It was also a widely regarded sport. The modern format was introduced in the 1912 Summer Olympics, and it was different because it included shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding, and running.

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Earlier, the event was held over a period of five days. After 1980, the event was held in one day. This change in the format of the sport has dramatically helped the viewers understand and connect with the sport more closely. All of it has helped the sport gain a lot of popularity.


Bobsledding is a sport that was invented in Switzerland in the 1860s and debuted in the 1924 Winter Olympics. In this sport, teams race down on sleds on ice tracks that are narrow and twisted. Unlike luge, there is protection here, and the tracks are powered by gravity.

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It is a team winter sport where the team with the fastest downhill aggregate time wins. The team consists of four men, and it has always been a hit among spectators since the 1924 Winter Olympics. The only exception was the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Canoe/Kayak Flatwater

In the 1924 Paris Olympics, this sport appeared as a demonstration sport. Twelve years later, in the 1936 Summer Olympics, it debuted as an event. Many things have evolved in the sport since then, and the latest trend is reducing the distance. It has gone from 10000 meters to 1000 meters to 200-meter events.

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The sport has two types of craft. The first one is a kayak, which is a closed boat, and the second is a canoe, which is an open boat that is paddled from the kneeling position with a single-blade paddle.


Debuted in the 1924 Winter Olympics, Curling is a team sport where two teams of four players play on a rectangular ice sheet. It is also known as the roaring game because of the granite’s sound while traveling across ice.

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In this sport, the players have to slide the stones on the ice sheet to the target area. The game’s goal is to deliver the stone from one side of the ice sheet to the scoring area, which is on the other side of the sheet, called the house. The closer the players get to the middle of the house, the better.

Marathon Swimming

This is the longest swimming event in the Olympics, consisting of 10km swimming in open water. The race typically lasts for around two hours. It is a huge endurance test for the swimmers, and even a tenth of a second can make all the difference. Marathon swimming debuted in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

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In a way, marathon swimming takes Olympic swimming back to its roots. Before swimming pools were built and adopted for competitions, open water swimming events were the thing. In fact, the first three editions of the modern Olympics used oceans, lakes, or rivers for swimming events.


This sport debuted in the Winter Olympics of 1928. A skeleton race involves hurtling head-first down a very steep ice track on a relatively small sled. Skeleton is also considered the first sliding sport and is very thrilling to watch.

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Men’s skeleton races appeared in the 1928 Winter Olympics and the 1948 Winter Olympics. Skeleton was then dropped until its reappearance as an event for men and women in the 2002 Winter Olympics. However, it is quite dangerous, and one wrong move can mess up the race entirely.

Table Tennis

Table Tennis is among the most famous and widely-played sports in the world. Although the first world championships were held back in 1926, this sport had to wait many years to make it to the Olympics. In the 1988 Summer Olympics, table tennis debuted as an official sport.

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Since its invention, table tennis has dramatically progressed. These days, players use wooden and carbon-fiber rackets coated with rubber. The ball is hollow and celluloid. The advancement in technology helps players smash the ball at a whopping speed of 150 kilometers per hour!


Although it is a relatively old and a pretty famous sport, rugby debuted in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Rugby started gaining popularity from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Because of its popularity, it is known worldwide, which led to the birth of numerous variations.

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Rugby gathers enormous crowds, and it is pretty fun to watch because it is very fast as compared to many other sports. All the passion and emotion with the crowd’s added reaction intensifies things considerably, making the sport even more exciting to watch!


Surfing debuted in the 2020 Summer Olympics and is one of the most popular water sports worldwide. Athletes have to ride a wave while standing or squatting on the board. The surfer has the choice to choose their direction according to their priority.

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Surfing is popular because of many reasons, from it being an environment-friendly sport to it looking cool. One of the best things for surfers is that they enjoy being in the water, which also develops care for the state of the oceans and increases awareness and appreciation for nature.

BMX Racing

BMX racing debuted in the 2008 Summer Olympics. It has quite a simple principle: eight competitors compete on a track full of jumps, bends, and other obstacles. As mentioned earlier, BMX racing started in the 60s in California and has a wide fanbase.

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Despite being an infant sport, it instantly rose to popularity because it offers a lot of excitement and action at such a low cost. It also led to the formation of an authorizing body for it in the early 70s in the USA. Over the next few years, BMX racing gradually gained popularity internationally.


Skateboarding is a fun and physically demanding sport that requires a lot of determination. It takes a lot for the skateboarders to pull off the trick they have been practicing for a long time. It debuted in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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Furthermore, it rose to popularity when surfers saw that they could use these boards and not be in the water. It led to the formation of the term ‘sidewalk surfer.’ It also has many health benefits, from stress relief to pain tolerance, coordination, and patience.


Undoubtedly among the best sports of all time, football first debuted in the 1900 Summer Olympics, and it has appeared in every edition of the Olympics, except the 1932 Summer Olympics. Furthermore, women’s football was first introduced in the Olympic program in 1996.

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It is no big secret that almost everybody in almost every corner of the world plays football. Therefore, it always regularly displays top-class competition, with top-notch players representing their countries. Because it is played everywhere, it has gained that level of popularity, and the spread of talent isn’t limited to football.


Fencing first debuted in the 1896 Summer Olympics and has remained in every edition ever since. Women’s fencing became a part of the Olympics from the 1924 Summer Olympics. Today, both genders compete individually and even in team events. In fencing, three types of weapons are used: foil, saber, and epee.

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Not only is fencing a highly mentally demanding sport, but it is also among the safest sports in the world. It is one among the five original modern Olympic sports, and it is still gaining popularity because of the number of fencers from different countries on the international stage.