Sports That Are Surprisingly Not Part Of The Summer Olympics

MMA mixed martial arts fighters compete in the ring.
MMA mixed martial arts fighters compete in the ring.
  • The first Summer Olympics was held in 1896.
  • Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that has ancient Greek roots.
  • It is difficult to find a difference between an amateur and professional chess player.

The Summer Olympics are a major international sports competition held once every four years. The world’s best athletes come together to compete against one another in a series of different sports. The Summer Olympics include sports like gymnastics, track and field, aquatics, rowing, boxing, archery, and many more. Forty-two sports have been part of the Summer Olympics at some point in time. The first official Summer Olympic Games were held in 1896. Since then, some sports have been lobbying to get into the Olympics because of their historic significance and international appeal.

These sports are, surprisingly, not a part of the Summer Olympics:


Cricket was originally played by English royalty as far back as the 14th century. The game reached international popularity and now has 2.5 billion fans around the world. Although it is not popular in the United States, it is in England, Asia, and Australia. Currently, the Marylebone Cricket Club, founded in 1787, maintains the official rules for the sport. Cricket was retired from the Summer Olympics in 1900, only four years after the official start of the Summer Games.


Squash is a traditional English sport. It was invented around 1830 at an English boarding school. Students at the school played an indoor racket sport with a punctured ball that they called “rackets.” Squash became a recognized sport in 1864 and was very popular. Great Britain, Egypt, the United States, and Pakistan had the top squash players in the mid-20th century.

Currently, 17 million people in 186 countries play squash. Forbes magazine named squash the world’s healthiest sport in 2017. The sport is included in the Commonwealth Games, the Pan-American Games, and the Asian Games. The World Squash Federation (WSF) has been campaigning to get squash in the Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona games. In 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to eliminate baseball and soccer. Squash was selected to be a possible replacement but did not receive the number of votes needed to be part of the games. The sport campaigned to be part of the 2016 games as well.


Bowling is an old game that has been popular for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians played a game like bowling which would be its earliest known ancestor. Bowling was also popular in England under Henry VIII’s reign. Today, approximately 100 million people play 10 pin bowling. Federation Internationale des Quilleurs lobbies for bowling to be a part of the Olympics. In 1988, bowling was one of the demonstration sports for the Seoul Games. Twenty nations competed, but it got a very small amount of media attention. Bowling has not been part of the games since.


The IOC recognized chess as a sport in the 1920s. It was supposed to be part of the 1924 Paris games but ultimately was not included because it was hard to differentiate between amateur and professional players. The World Chess Federation lobbies to get the sport included in the games, and the organization drugs test players so they are following the rules of the IOC.

Chess does have the World Chess Olympiad, which has more countries participating in it than the Winter Olympics. It was last held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018. Around 180 nations participated in the competition.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts is a violent but exciting sport. It is popular in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, and Australia. The sport formed its own International Federation in 2012, which is an important first step to becoming a possible Olympic sport.

The Olympics emphasize safety, but MMA competitors do not wear helmets or padding. In fact, Senator John McCain compared the sport to “human cockfighting.” MMA may have a hard battle to become an Olympic sport.

MMA takes competitors and audiences back to the Olympics’ Ancient Greek roots. Athletes in the original games would fight violently and fiercely with very few rules. Competitors used boxing, wrestling, and martial arts techniques to fight, much like today's MMA fighting.


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