Tug of War Used to be an Olympic Sport

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Although nowadays it’s better known as a game that kids play at summer camp, tug of war used to be an actual Olympic sport, with ten countries having competed for the coveted gold medal in the early 20th century.

The rules were simple: drag the rope in your team’s direction far enough and you won. The number of team members for each game varied slightly, with each team consisting of between five and eight members for each Olympics. Teams would wear matching uniforms for the competition, which was considered part of the track and field games.
Above: These tug-of-war champs were Olympians
The sport has been contested at five Summer Olympics from 1900 to 1920, although only a handful of countries competed each time. Still, they kept including it (although today it likely would have been canceled due to lack of participation). Great Britain won the most cumulative medals, with five in all throughout the years.

Like any other game, tug of war involved a definite strategy. In 1908, the American team boycotted the competition, accusing their British counterparts of cheating– by using boots with spikes on them to dig into the ground.


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