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Wikimedia Commons

8 Winter Olympics Demo Sports

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Wikimedia Commons

This year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have added 12 new sports to the global competition, making the 22nd Winter Olympics the largest version of the event yet. But this isn't the first time the Olympics have attempted to introduce new competitions to the world. The event has long made both room and time to include “demonstration sports” during their run. These sports are played for promotional purposes and some eventually become official Olympic events. Most don't—but there are certainly some interesting entries here (including two that involve dogs).

1. Skijoring

Sure, there are plenty of Olympic-level sports that the layman should not try at home, but few seem as primed for disaster as skijoring, a game that centers on being pulled by animals while on skis. Picture your goofy neighbor who likes to go skateboarding with his or her pup pulling them along. Then imagine that all happening on snow and ice.

Skijoring involves one cross-country skier either being pulled by dogs (often from such go-get-'em breeds as Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, and Inuit dogs) or one trick skier going over jumps and obstacles while being pulled by a single horse. Equestrian skijoring also includes cross-country style races, but most competitions involve the acrobatic elements. You can also skijor behind a snowmobile, but it's far less cute.

Skijoring was only demonstrated at one Olympics—1928 in St. Moritz—but the sport is still in competition across the world. Whitefish, Montana is home to the annual World Skijoring Championships.

2. Ice stock sport

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Though curling is now curiously en vogue when it comes to nifty Olympic sports, it’s not the only “sliding things across ice” competition to take the Games by storm. Ice stock sport (also known as “Bavarian curling”) has demonstrated at two different Winter Olympics—in 1936 in Bavaria, Germany (of course!) and in 1964 in Innsbruck, Austria.

Like curling, ice stock sport centers on sliding an object (in this case, the eponymous “ice stock,” which looks like a big, flat circle with a stick on top) across ice. Winning at ice stock sport hinges on hitting a target or covering the longest distance. There are many version of ice stock, but “target shooting” and “distance shooting” are the most popular. Despite being a winter sport, athletes will also play the game during the summer, using tarmacs to slide their ice stocks along.

3. Military patrol

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Nothing says “fun Olympic sport” quite like the name “military patrol,” but this demonstration event actually has some niftiness to it—like its team element and strict backpack weight requirements (OK, maybe the latter isn’t as fun). Military patrol has so far demonstrated at three different Winter Games, making it the most popular demo event. It's a combination of cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering, and rifle shooting.

If that sounds familiar, it's because the sport inspired the biathlon, which is still an Olympic sport today.

4. Ski ballet

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Though ski ballet (also known as “acroski”) is no longer a part of freestyle skiing, it’s hard to deny the allure of a sport so rigorously dedicated to embodying its name. Ski ballet is a choreographed event performed on a smooth slope. While the sport tried to adapt to changing times–in the '70s, routines came with music, and in the '80s pair ballet competitions emerged—the International Ski Federation ceased all formal competition of the sport in 2000.

Ski ballet demonstrated at two different Olympics during its heyday—in 1988 in Calgary and then again in 1992 in Albertville, France.

5. Bandy

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A precursor to hockey, bandy is another on-ice game that involves skating, sticks, and goals. Its rules are similar to soccer and bandy teams put at least eight players on the ice at any given time. The ice area is much bigger than in hockey, and is best compared to a football field. Another big difference between bandy and hockey is that bandy is played with a small round ball, not a small flat puck. Bandy only demonstrated at the Olympics once, back in 1952 in Oslo, Norway. 

6. Sled-dog racing

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Perhaps the most well-known sport of all the demonstration events, sled-dog racing showed at the 1932 Games in Lake Placid and then again in 1952 in Oslo, but it never made it to official status.

Still, sled-dog racing is incredibly popular and has plenty of its own competitions (like the world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race) to keep it going.

7. Speed skiing

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You’ve got to hand it to speed skiing—they’ve certainly got some simplicity going on here. As the name lets on, speed skiing is all about velocity, and the aim of the sport is to ski downhill in one line as quickly as possible. It's both totally exhilarating and horrifically terrifying. While the Olympics still play host to plenty of other fast skiing events, the speeds that speed skiers hit (around 125 MPH) are much faster than the numbers put up by slalom racers and the like. The current record holder, Italy’s Simone Origone, was clocked at 156.2 MPH back in April of 2006.

Speed skiing was shown at the Olympics just once, back in 1992 at the Albertville Games, home to the famous Les Arcs course, a 2 kilometer trail that has seen three of the four world speed skiing records.

8. Winter pentathlon

If you think the biathlon features a weird pairing of events, it’s time for you to get hip to the winter pentathlon.

Like the biathlon, the pentathlon involves both cross-country skiing and shooting, but also adds downhill skiing, fencing, and horseback riding. It was demonstrated only once, at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Fourteen athletes competed in the complicated sport, and while it sounds like the sort of sport that needs a bevy of different arenas, they simplified things—every event was held outdoors, including the fencing.

While not an official Olympic event, the winter pentathlon is held every year at the Military World Games.

getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.


By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.


The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.


More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.


The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.


While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."


The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."


Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.


To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.


In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"


When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.


After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."


Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.


Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.


Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.


The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.


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