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Olympics' past was less than golden

Gold medalist Ryan Lochte created a tempest in a pee-pot on Friday, when he told NBC's Ryan Seacrest and an international television audience that he and all other Olympic swimmers routinely urinate in the pool prior to races.

The admission gave new meaning to the concept of the pre-race warm-up, as well as to the post-race chant "We're No. 1!"

While London city workers are sure to be upping the pool's chlorine content during the remaining days of the Games, earlier generations of Olympians have endured and survived much less sanitary swimming venues.

Perhaps the nastiest swimming area used during the "modern" Olympic era, which began in 1896, is the river Seine, which essentially served as the municipal sewer outflow for the city of Paris when it hosted the 1900 Games.

In addition to the usual swimming and diving events, the 1900 Olympics featured a 200 meter obstacle race in the Seine, in which competitors had to swim, climb a pole, and scramble over and then swim under a row of moored boats. Not surprisingly, the event failed to reappear in subsequent games.

Those who think that some of the less mainstream current Olympic events, like synchronized swimming and badminton, should be shown the door would replicate Lochte's pre-race routine in their La-Z-Boys if some of the events from the 1900 games were still in vogue.

The 1900 Paris Olympics debuted an astonishing array of competitions, many of which, mercifully, never again saw the light of day.

At the top of that list is pigeon shooting, an event possibly dreamed up to protect and preserve the large number of outdoor statues found in the host city. Live pigeons were released in front of individual shotgun-toting contestants, who bagged as many birds as possible before recording two misses. Leon de Lundon of Belgium took the gold medal for his impressive 21-bird salute. One assumes there were numerous specials on coq au vin in Parisian restaurants that night.

Although the automobile was still in its infancy, 16 motor sports events were also a part of the 1900 Paris Olympics. There were races not only for cars, but for motorcycles, delivery vans, taxis and trucks as well. It may be time for a pizza delivery decathlon involving driving, running/carrying and change making to debut during the next Olympics.

While dressage is the focal point of equestrian events at this year's Games, polo debuted in Paris in 1900 and remained an Olympic sport until 1936. A Belgian horse named Extra Dry won the equine long jump, an official event at the 1900 Games which, happily, turned out to be a one-trick pony.

Hot-air ballooning made its first and only Olympic appearance at the 1900 Paris Games. The same was true with croquet.

A tug of war event also debuted in 1900, and remained an official sport through 1920.

The 1900 Olympics were held in conjunction with, and possibly as a sideshow to, the 1900 Paris World's Fair. The fencing competition was held in the World's Fair's cutlery wing, which must have thrilled early day Ginsu salesmen.

Other instances of bad planning in 1900 included not providing enough space for the throwing events. The top three discus throws by Hungarian gold medalist Rudolf Bauer ended up in the crowd. Luckily, no one was injured.

It would have been a tough way to earn an Olympic crown.


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