There’s nothing quite like the Olympic Games. Every four years, athletes compete from all over the world in sports we all know and love. From hockey in the winter to gymnastics in the summer, there’s something for everyone to watch whenever the Games roll back around. Amidst the popular sports, there’s also some interesting sports you may haven’t heard of or even knew were Olympic sports.
Both the winter and summer games have sports that you might want to keep in mind next time it’s being hosted. Here are five unique sports to watch during the next Olympic Games.
One of the last things you might expect to see on the Olympic stage is breaking, which is also known as break dancing. It’s a type of urban dance style that originates from Bronx, New York in the 70s. Since then, it’s grown into a competitive art form that will soon be part of the Olympics.¹
So, how does breaking work as a competitive sport? Two athletes go head-to-head on the dance floor. They take turns performing while five judges look on and score competitors on criteria that includes:
- Performativity, and;
Since becoming an official discipline in the World DanceSport Federation, breaking has become a world class sport. It eventually made its way to the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. After its success and popularity, the International Olympic Committee decided the sport of breaking will make its official Olympic debut during the Paris Olympics in 2024.
If you blink, you just might miss the athletes competing in skeleton races. This winter sport involves riding a sled down an icy track head-first, requiring athletes to control their movements throughout the twists and turns.
Since skeleton is considered the world’s first sliding sport, it has a long history. It was something tourists did for fun back in the mid-19th century. Skeleton was eventually developed in St. Moritz, Switzerland as a pursuit for the rich with the famous Cresta Run.²
After appearing in 1928 and 1948 Games, it officially became a sport in the Olympics starting with Salt Lake City in 2002. FanSided says competitors are given four runs that are timed to the hundredth of the second. All of the times are added together and whoever has the fastest total time wins the gold medal.³
Another cool game you don’t hear about too much in the U.S. is futsal, which is pronounced “foots-all”. This South American game is an indoor version of soccer that involves ball control, technique, improvisation, and other athletic skill sets.⁴
It was created by coach Juan Carlos Ceriani in efforts to make an indoor variation of an 11 vs. 11 soccer game. The game is recognized by the FIFA organization and is something that more than 30 million people play around the world. As such, futsal made its Olympic debut in the 2018 Buenos Aires Games.
Players compete on a field that’s about eight times smaller than your typical soccer field. Two teams of five play on the field, looking to score goals with technical and skillful moves. Since futsal takes place in a smaller space indoors, it’s a game that can be enjoyed all year round.
4. Ski Mountaineering
Get ready to watch ski mountaineering when it makes its Olympic debut at the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Games. The aim of this competition is to hike up and ski down mountain terrain, which requires a ton of endurance and strength.⁵
The start of ski mountaineering can be traced back to prehistoric times when it was necessary for people to travel across mountains in the winter. But in 1897, a German man completed the first alpine traverse by crossing the Bernese Oberland on skis. This is considered the origins of the sport.⁶
Although ski mountaineering has yet to be competed on the Olympic stage, its debut in 2024 will be a long time coming. The sport held its first World Championships back in 2002 and is particularly popular in Italy. There’s even an International Ski Mountaineering Federation that works to promote, regulate, and develop the sport worldwide.
5. Table Tennis
Table tennis is no longer just something you play for fun in someone’s rec room. Since becoming an official Olympic sport at the 1988 Seoul Games, it’s been a competitive sport that athletes rigorously train for around the world.⁷
While casual players may know the sport as ping pong, professional athletes know it as table tennis. It had its first World Championships back in 1926 and has grown into a sport with over 40 million competitors worldwide. China has some of the best players that continue to win medals each time the Summer Olympics comes around.
Competitors use specially developed rackets and a lightweight ball to play the game. While it may seem like a questionable sport at first, you’ll quickly change that opinion once you see the players hit the ball back and forth at over 150 kilometres per hour.
Upcoming Olympics Games
What’s great about the Olympics is how the events happen every two years in a new city. That means you don’t have to wait too long to watch the most talented athletes duke it out for a gold medal.
Whether you’re looking forward to the summer or winter games, you can rest easy knowing it’s already scheduled a decade ahead of time. Here’s when and where you can expect some of the future Olympic games:
- Beijing 2022 (Winter)
- Paris 2024 (Summer)
- Milano Cortina 2026 (Winter)
- Los Angeles 2028 (Summer)
- Brisbane 2032 (Summer)