hand holding up olympic medals

Sports at the Summer Olympic Games

Having played a lot of squash in the past, it really annoys me that squash has never been in the Olympics. But it’s not the only sport that’s never been in the Olympics. (When I’m talking Olympics, I’m talking the summer Olympic games).

Each Olympic Games there are a set number of sports, with the majority remaining each time. But there are also a handful that are decided on by the host nation for that Olympics. This is where we tend to see the more modern, trendy sports (some of which are questionable – the latest 3 man basketball. Just why when they already have basketball, and could have added in a totally different sport) being included. Sports can appear but then disappear again depending on popularity, worldwide appeal, and limitations on venues for the next Olympic locations.

sports facts at the summer olympics

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We also see some sports like sailing, have the races in them switched around each 4 years. So sailors who’ve won medals across a couple of games, all of a sudden their class won’t appear in the next Olympics. They either need to change class or retire, and hope in future it returns.

To get a new sport included, the International Federation proposes it to the International Olympic Committee where it’s decided. A host country can also push for certain sports, hence the decision that will see Paris hosting in 2024 and including breakdancing in the programme.

There are quite a few surprising sports that have never been in the Olympics.

Sports that have never been in the summer Olympics


Given that all other main racket sports are always in the Olympics, squash is still not included. Personally I think it should replace tennis. The Olympics should be the biggest and most important medal for a sports person in that sport to achieve. But for something like tennis (golf, football), it’s never going to be more important than winning a grand slam (or for golf and football, The Open, World Cup etc).

It amazed me that Great Britain didn’t have squash in the 2012 London Olympics. Why wouldn’t we include a sport where we’ve always had world class players? 17 million players in the world, but in the last bid to include squash, wrestling won its place (and has subsequently disappeared again).


Not always seen as a sport, but darts has tried several times for a slot in the Olympics, and will be again considered in future.

Sports considered for the Olympics but rejected

Twenty other sports were considered but rejected for 2020, including:

  • Bowling (lawn bowls and ten pin bowling)
  • Chess (not sure this could really be classed as a sport, it’s a board game)
  • Korfball
  • Dancesport
  • Sumo
  • Tug of war
  • Wushu

Some of these are so niche to specific countries, it’s no surprise they’re excluded. Dancesport I’d love to see, but I could imagine the disagreements about whether it’s a sport or not going on. Despite the fact that dancers are highly tuned athletes in their own way. If darts could be considered, then dancesport could too.

hand holding up olympic medals

Sports dropped after the 1896 Olympics

Sports come and go in and out of the Olympics. Some of these early Olympic sports I doubt many people have heard of.

  • Croquet
  • Cricket
  • Jeu de Paume
  • Pelota
  • Polo
  • Roque
  • Rackets
  • Tug-of-war
  • Lacrosse
  • Motor boating

Sports shown as demonstration sports

Some sports appear at the summer Olympic Games as demonstrations in at least one instance of the games, but never included as a full sport on the Olympic programme

  • Boules
  • Korfball
  • Motorcycle racing
  • Roller sports
  • Water ski
  • Lawn bowles

I would love to see roller sports. How much fun would that be – speed skating, team roller derby and dance skating. I seem to recall a tv programme years ago I watched as a child which was people competing in ‘artistic’ skills dancing on skates.

New Olympic sports and dropped disciplines by year

2024 Paris

  • New: Breakdancing
  • Dropped: Baseball and karate

2021 Tokyo


  • 3×3 basketball
  • Skateboarding – street and park competitions
  • Surfing
  • Karate
  • Softball and baseball made a temporary return.
  • Dropped – Wrestling

2016 Rio

  • New: Golf, Rugby Sevens

2012 London

  • New: Women’s boxing
  • Dropped: Baseball, Softball

2008 Beijing

  • New: Open water marathon swim, BMX
tennis ball with net

Sports that are regularly at the Olympics


Modern pentathlom
Swimming (including syncro and diving)
Table tennis

What sports would you love to see dropped or introduced into the summer Olympic games in future?

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