Did you know that Pigeon Racing was featured in the unofficial programme of the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris? Seven events were contested in the schedule, but unfortunately no results are known.
So how would our feathered friends rate up against the Olympic athletes of the ground? Obviously pigeons can’t qualify for the Olympics, but they would provide fierce competition against their human athletic rivals, based on the following facts:
100m Sprint: The world’s fastest man, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, holds the world record for the 100m sprint of 9.58 seconds. He averages a speed of 23.35 mph, which is incredibly fast. However, it would not be enough to beat a racing pigeon which during 100 mile races can reach up to 110 mph – meaning it would take a mere 2.03 seconds for the pigeon to fly 100m. Unlucky Usain!
Long Jump: In 1991, USA’s Mike Powell broke the world record for the long jump with a leap of 8.95m – five centimetres further than the previous record. While it might have looked like he was flying through the air, it was nothing compared to how far a pigeon can fly. From take off to touch down, pigeons have been known to fly distances of more than 1,000 miles. Better luck next time Mike!
Pole Vault: France’s Renaud Lavillenie broke the 21 year-old world indoor pole vault record in 2014 with a leap of 6.16m. Unfortunately for Lavillenie, the pigeon has him beat. Most birds will fly higher than 500 feet in the air during migration and can reach up to 20,000 feet. They don’t need a pole to get up there either, Renaud!
See an article on other surprising Olympic demonstration events on the Guardian website.