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Final curtain: The last live pigeon shooting event at the Olympic Games, 1900

THE Olympics and controversy have never been strangers. From the Nazi propaganda-fuelled games of 1936 in Berlin, to the boycotted games of Melbourne, 1956, and even on to the present day Games in Beijing over which China's questionable human rights record has cast such a shadow.

Then there is some Olympics history which seems to sit ill in today's world but was deemed perfectly acceptable way back when.

Take, for example, the 1960 Winter Olympics, hosted by the outrageously named Squaw Valley in the United States. While this town still, sadly, persists in being so named it is unlikely the Olympics would ever return to such a monument of bad taste, nor are the Summer Games ever likely to return to one of it's most bloody sports: Pigeon shooting.

The Games of 1900 in Paris was the one and only time in Olympic history when animals were deliberately killed in the name of sport.

The birds were released in front of a participant, much in the way clay targets are fired out of traps these days, and the object of the exercise was to kill as many as possible. A participant was eliminated as soon as he had failed to down two pigeons.

In all, nearly 300 were shot from the sky, the event leaving something of a gory battlefield of blood and feathers in its wake.

Top shot was a Monsieur Leon de Lunden of Belgium who bagged 21 pigeons to edge out local favourite Maurice Faure who finished on 20. The event even had a possible Scottish interest as a certain Donald MacIntosh finished in third. Although he was competing for Australia one suspects his brogue may have carried more than a hint of Caledonia.

Mr MacIntosh would have also carried a fair little windfall back to Australia as, in a gesture which seems as outmoded as blood sports, the top four competitors agreed to share the top prize of 20,000 French Francs.

While most would welcome a return of this 'Olympic spirit', the pigeon shooting is best consigned to history.

 
 
 

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