Two years ago I wrote a series of articles on animals in the Olympics in connection with the 2012 summer games in London, England . Currently, only horses are featured in Olympic events and only in the summer. As I watched the women’s snowboarding, I began to wonder if the animal oriented events would be well received by winter Olympic enthusiasts. As an animal aficionado, the more I thought about it, the more excited I became. After musing on the subject, I settled on two events that I would propose for future winter Olympics.
Sled Dog Racing:
Humans have been living with and utilizing sled dogs across large geographic areas for thousands of years. These dogs allowed indigenous arctic peoples to navigate in and even thrive in very challenging polar environments for millennia. Sled dogs, and the indigenous populations they served, share a largely unsung legacy which would be more widely known if sled dog racing was given a place in Olympic sports.
Sled dog racing was included as a demonstration sport along with curling and women’s speed skating, in the 1932 winter Olympics held in Lake Placid New York1. Both curling and women’s speed skating enjoy official status in modern Olympics, although some question whether curling is a real sport. I don’t think anyone who knows anything about sled dog racing would question whether it is a real sport. The athleticism required of both the canine and human competitors is immense. As with many other winter sports it certainly is not for the faint of heart.
Winter Equestrian Events:
Since equestrian events are a regular offering at the summer Olympics, it would seem natural that they would also be featured in the winter Olympics. As I detailed in my 2012 article summer equine events include dressage, three-day eventing and show jumping. Winter equine competitions would be more limited but sleigh driving would a logical offering.
Competitive sleigh driving is a popular pursuit for equine enthusiasts, and I think it would appeal to a varied cross section of spectators. There are a wide variety of classes available from solo horses to teams of two or more horses pulling sleighs. Some classes involve maneuvering through an obstacle course in which like show jumping, competitors have points deducted for contact with the obstacles placed on the course. For those of you who love the glitz and glamour of figure skating some events are judged on the authenticity of period costumes and sleighs. In contrast to the summer Olympics with favor a fairly homogeneous breed of equine athletes, sleigh driving could be divided in to various classes from diminutive pones to massive draft horses.
I see great potential for animals and humans competing together in the winter Olympics. If my vision comes to fruition, it would add an element of diversity that would appeal to a worldwide audience. In addition to connecting with a past that many of us no longer have any association with, it would give us a greater appreciation for the animals that share our planet.
1. Official report III Olympic winter games Lake Placid New York 1932; Compiled by George M. Lattimer page 250-262.