Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

A Legitimate Plan To Restore Tug Of War As An Olympic Event

Photo credit: Michael Sohn/Associated Press
Photo credit: Michael Sohn/Associated Press

Tug of war was contested as an official Olympic event from 1900 until 1920, when it was culled from the Summer Games program alongside sports like equestrian vaulting (jumping onto—and then off of—a horse), figure skating, and ice hockey. We think it’s time tug of war came back to the Olympics, and we have a solid plan to make it happen.


The IOC, after years of trying to stop the increasing bloat of events, is adding a ton of them in 2020. So any inherent institutional barrier to adding one more sport doesn’t seem to exist. Here’s how we’d do it:

The event would be competed in the main Olympic stadium, on the last day of competition—before the marathoners, who are traditionally the final competitors, arrive at the finish. Each country enters one ten-member team—with each member of the team being selected from that country’s existing delegation, and each team featuring five men and five women. (Countries that don’t have five men and women can join forces with other smaller delegations. Not that the IOC actually believes this, but it is in harmony with the Olympics’ theme of peace, and cooperation.)

Furthermore, teams can only select one competitor from each discipline. That means one weightlifter, one athletics competitor, one basketball player, et cetera. Matches are best of three, two-minute rounds, in a single-elimination bracket. The event would be incredibly cheap to execute, especially since there are no increased costs for additional athletes. And it would be great television!

What say you? Who would your dream tug of war team be? I’d pick:

  • Kendrick Farris (weightlifter)
  • Robby Smith (wrestler)
  • Rudy Winkler (athletics: hammer throw)
  • Draymond Green (basketball)
  • Clayton Laurent (boxing)
  • Katie Ledecky (swimming)
  • Hope Solo (soccer)
  • Mel Seidemann (water polo)
  • Kayla Harrison (judo)
  • Akalani Baravilala (rugby)

Timothy Burke is formerly Deadspin's Video Director.