Some Olympic sports get only one shot, and in one such case in 1906, that shot was literal. Held in Athens, Greece, the 1906 Games are not officially recognized as Olympics because they took place only two years after the 1904 Games and were intended as a type of intermediate event. Still, they drew athletes from 20 countries and offered 84 events, including, for the first time, a contest known as pistol dueling.
Male competitors armed themselves with wax-bullet-firing weapons and took aim at plaster dummies lined up either 20 meters (65.6 feet) or 30 meters (98.4 feet) away. Léon Moreaux of France took the gold in the 20-meter event, while Greece's Konstantinos Skarlatos earned gold in the 30-meter competition.
Two years later, the Olympics were held in London, and while the 1908 Games drew a blank when it came to pistol dueling, the event was held as an unofficial demonstration that coincided with the Games. To make things more exciting, 11 contestants donned protective gear and fired wax bullets at one another, not just at dummy targets. The crowds loved the event, but by the next Olympics, in 1912, the world was gearing up for war, and taking shots at others was no longer seen as something to do for fun. Some do, however, consider pistol dueling with wax bullets to be a precursor to the modern sport of paintballing.
1906, the unofficial Olympics:
- Athens hosted the so-called Intercalated Games in the hopes of having an interim event held there on even years between official Olympic Games.
- Although unofficial, the top medaling team was France, followed by Greece, the United States, and Great Britain.
- In what is often considered the first Olympic closing ceremony, 6,000 schoolchildren helped close out the 1906 Games.