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The Olympic Games’ weirdest rules

Photo by Korea_Judo_Kim_Jaebum_London_04 licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

All athletes must play by the rules – even if some of them seem a little strange. Let’s look into the rulebook for some of the most unusual rules for Olympic Games sports:

Diving

Divers must be bold, high and confident during their take-off. If not, judges can deduct up to two points. Can you believe there’s a sport where you can lose points for not being confident?

viding photo

Photo by Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Water Polo

Rules state that players “shall not have grease, oil, or any similar substance on the body.” Guess they’ll have to hold off on fixing their motorcycle until after the match.

water polo match

Photo by Leigh Burgess licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Archery

In archery, the archer has only 40 seconds to shoot each arrow and each arrow must be marked with the competitor’s name or initials. In case they miss who got the bull’s eye!

archery

Photo by Republic of Korea licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

Boxing

The losers of the semi-final bouts do not face each other in a bronze medal match. Instead, they are BOTH awarded bronze medals. They do that with other contact sports like taekwondo, judo and wrestling — a happy ending for everybody.

Boxers

Photo by US Embassy London licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

Canoe (Slalom)

If a paddle breaks, the canoeist does not get another paddle. Gives real meaning to the saying, "up the creek without a paddle!"

canoe slalom

Photo by David Merrett licensed CC BY 2.0

BMX

BMX bikers can’t wear just any old jersey: it can’t be made of lycra material, there can be no zippers above the waist, or back pockets. And the jersey needs to be tucked into the pants before the race begins — like mom says.

BMX bikers

Photo by Geof Wilson licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Basketball

If a player intentionally hangs on the hoop after a slam dunk, he or she receives a foul. In case you’re curious, the official name for the rule violation is “a non-unsportsmanlike technical foul.” In pro ball, the foul will also get a player a $500 fine. Yikes!

basketball game

Photo by DVIDSHUB licensed CC BY 2.0

Fencing

If a competitor leaves the piste (say “peest”) – the platform where the match takes place – he or she admits defeat. In one famous incident, a South Korean fencer named Shin A Lam disagreed with the judges when they ruled she’d lost her Olympic match. She asked that the results be reconsidered. As she waited for a final ruling, Lam had to stay on the piste for 45 minutes. She sat on the playing surface in front of the crowd and sobbed. In the end, the judges’ decision stuck, and Lam lost her match.

fencing photo

Photo by Farrukh licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Golf

A player is instantly disqualified if he or she does not sign the scorecard at the end of play. Pssst - DON’T FORGET TO SIGN YOUR SCORECARD!

female golf player

Photo by Chrisjam2009 licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Swimming

In a 10-km race in open-water swimming, official rules say that swimmers cannot walk or jump along, but are allowed to stand. Wait a sec — standing is not going to help win the race!

According to the rules book, if the athlete sets a new World Record, it must be reported by telegram, telex, or facsimile within 7 days of the performance. What’s a telex? Do those even exist anymore?

olympic swimmer

Photo by emilyfreemanphotography licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hockey

Goalkeepers or players with goalkeeping privileges must not lie on the ball...so no napping during play.

field hockey player

Photo by Jeff Boyd licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rhythmic gymnastics

While performing in rhythmic gymnastics, athletes use equipment like hoops, balls, clubs, and ribbons. The rules say that if one of these items gets stuck in the ceiling or breaks, the gymnast must keep going with the routine because there’s no starting over. This is a real challenge since these items are often an important part of the routine. But kudos to those athletes who would have to pull out some serious mime and improv skills to continue their performance. 

female gymnast

Photo by Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Rugby

According to rugby rules, if the ball falls off the tee, a little gadget used to help a player kick the ball off the ground, before a player hits or kicks it off, it can’t be placed back on until a referee grants permission. Ref, may I? Pretty, please?

rugby match

Photo by Melodie Turori licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Tennis

If your hat falls off in the middle of a tennis match, your opponent can call for a "let" – that’s a fancy way of saying a "do-over" – because it’s a distraction. A let will also be called if a tennis ball falls out of your pocket during play.

tennis player

Photo by Marianne Bevis licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

Wrestling

Hankies are required in wrestling. Rules state that each wrestler must have a cloth handkerchief with him or her during the whole match. The cloth, also called a bloodrag, is carried in the wrestler’s uniform. It’s used to stop any bleeding and clean up any mess that may be made on the mat.

wrestling

Photo by [ Greg ] licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0