Prospector Sam - Ranking Every Single Event at the 2021 Tokyo Summer OlympicsJul 20, 2021 at 11:59PM
The Summer Olympics are finally upon us! After a year of waffling back and forth, firing the Chief of the Games due to a heavy dose of sexism, and a lot of fear about whether it made sense to host a global sporting event in the middle of a deadly pandemic, we’ve finally made it.
And, as we remember every time we tune into the Games every two years, the Olympics are filled with a wide array of sports that span from mainstream to weird to just plain confusing.
As someone with exactly zero expertise (or even knowledge) about most of these events, I won’t venture into the murky waters of trying to analyze them or gamble on them, because that would just be stupid. BUT, I am an expert on providing completely unnecessary and eclectic insight, which qualifies me to give this article a shot.
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I care deeply about all of my readers, and I’m willing to take on the herculean effort of ranking the 46 Summer Olympic sports so that you know which are worth your time and which aren’t. You’re welcome, and apologies for all of the offense I’m about to cause (not really, if you take me seriously enough to be offended you’re probably in the wrong place).
Now, every “scientific” study requires a bit of explanation about how the expert reached their conclusions. Well, fortunately for you, I’m a respectable and dedicated author, so I will provide all the detail I have. Simply, this is just my own, completely biased opinions about what’s worth watching.
I give extra preference to the weird sports that I would never be able to watch otherwise because those are my favorite part of the Olympics, but I don’t give ridiculous “sports” a pass simply for being unique. Basically, its a delicate balance of quality and intrigue, which I’ve masterfully crafted for all of you.
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Now, without further ado, the definitive and authoritative rankings! ⤵️
⛏️ 46 - Equestrian
Horse dancing? Really? That’s something we value as a sport in modern human civilization? I just don’t understand.
⛏️ 45 - 3X3 Basketball
Why in god’s name did we take a fully functional sport, cut out half the players, and turn it into a completely different event? 3 on 3 basketball is great if you’re playing pickup in your local gym and don’t have enough people to run a full game. Winning an Olympic gold for it is just silly.
⛏️ 44 - Track Cycling
I will open with the caveat that I have a personal vendetta against bikers. They strut their asses out and take up the whole road but follow absolutely none of the fucking traffic laws, like those laws somehow don’t apply to bikes. Screw you, assholes, and one day I’ll take all of you down… My own bias aside, this is an event where bikers peddle around on a tiny indoor circular track, because apparently the road version wasn’t good enough. I honestly have no idea why this even exists, please get rid of this nonsense.
⛏️ 43 - Artistic Swimming
This is not a sport. Athletic? sure. Difficult? absolutely. But moving around in the water like a group of coordinated tadpoles does not qualify as an activity worthy of Olympic prestige. Might as well make lawn mowing an event too.
⛏️ 42 - Modern Pentathlon
The idea of a crossover competition between sports isn’t crazy. The traditional decathlon forces individuals to compete at a bunch of track and field events that span across a range of skills requiring “pure athleticism.” But the modern pentathlon, which consists of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding, and swimming, is just a clusterfuck of completely unrelated sports. I honestly can’t find a single reason to put these five together. Hell, why not just have people compete in ALL of the 45 other events? That probably would make more sense (and would be a lot funnier).
⛏️ 41 - Rhythmic Gymnastics
This event has basically the same issue as Artistic Swimming, except that the word “gymnastics” gives them some credibility. If the real gymnasts haven’t forced them to change their name yet, I’ll give rhythmic gymnasts a slight boost based on proximity. Twirling strings does not feel like an activity worthy of Olympic prestige, though….
⛏️ 40 - Skateboarding
Skateboarding just doesn’t feel like an Olympic sport. This may be a bit harsh, but the phrase ”lipstick on a pig” comes to mind here. You already have the X Games, stop being greedy and butting in where you don’t belong.
⛏️ 39 - Tennis
Tennis is a boring sport. I refuse to go any further on the matter.
⛏️ 38 - BMX Freestyle
The fucking bikers are back (Prospector shakes his fist at the sky like an old man). At least they’re doing tricks this time, but I’m still not happy about it.
⛏️ 37-35 - Judo/Karate/Taekwondo
I have no problem with any of these sports, I just can’t bring myself to watch them. Too many rules about how you can attack someone that seem completely impractical in a real fight. Swap these out for some MMA, then come find me.
⛏️ 34 - Surfing
I’m not completely opposed to the idea of surfing as a sport, it just seems like an odd fit for the Olympics. I also thought Surfing was mostly water hippies passing time until they could get high. Maybe over time I could change my tune, but it currently doesn’t do much for me.
⛏️ 33 - Canoe/Kayak Flatwater
A bunch of people paddling like madmen on open water, but slower than rowing? Seems kind of silly. Put a massive wave or shark behind them to see if they can make it before they get taken out, though, and this event could have some promise.
⛏️ 32 - Sailing
Sailing seems incredibly difficult, so I want to give them some credit. Dealing with changing wind patterns and adjusting sails and a bunch of other tricky considerations is impressive to master. Nos, am I going to watch a 3 hour boat race? Probably not. But I have some respect for the talent
⛏️ 31 - Swimming
This one is going to ruffle some serious feathers, and I do not give one flying fuck. I don’t have a problem with swimming in general, but these assholes are so damn greedy. There are 5,000 swimming events that are almost identical, and they act like the athletes who win a bunch of medals are impressive. Sure, make 17 basketball events where the length of the game changes by 5 minutes, and the USA Basketball team will break medal records too. Shame on all of you.
⛏️ 30 - Baseball/Softball
This event mostly suffers from the fact that no MLB players can play in it. If we had a full on Olympic battle for supremacy in baseball, I would tune in. But throw in a bunch of minor leaguers and outcasts, and It’s not worth 4 hours of my time to watch. Softball would be better served by disassociating from the baseball side.
⛏️ 29 - BMX Racing
So now we’re racing the slower bikes on a track. Sort of cool, especially because there’s some actual danger of crashes, but still kind of silly.
⛏️ 28 - Soccer
Olympic Soccer needs to give up and call it a day. For men, this event consists of mostly U23 players, and not a single top quality player shows. The women show better, but it’s still not anywhere near as important as the World Cup. I want to like Olympic soccer, but it’s like getting really excited about a meatloaf; sure, it could be good, but it’ll never be anywhere near a steak.
⛏️ 27 - Canoe/Kayak Slalom
I didn’t think I’d like this all that much, then I watched it during last olympics and it was actually kind of cool. A combination of fake rapids and downhill skiing, where people are paddling for their lives to make it around gates before being swept away. This event has enough intrigue to turn on for an hour and be entertained
⛏️ 26 - Road Cycling
Another one? Jesus, this is just unnecessary. Road cycling is the “traditional” sport you see on the Tour de France, so it has enough mainstream appeal to make it important. Will I watch? Probably not, unless that lady who took out all the bikers at the Tour de France with a sign shows up again. She may be my hero.
⛏️ 25 - Triathlon
Long distance running, biking, and swimming all at once is a bit more masochistic than anything else. Sounds like a terrible day to pretty much any person, but, if you get good enough, your ability to suffer becomes impressive. Purely because of how hard it is to even finish one of these fucking things (not to mention be good enough to make the Olympics), they have my respect.
⛏️ 24 - Shooting
The idea of competitive shooting is really cool. The reality, not so much. I tried watching a few events in the last Olympics, and it was extremely boring. Just a bunch of people in a room shooting at a tiny target that the audience can’t see. There has to be a better way to do this, and to raise the stakes (you can use your imagination on that one).
⛏️ 23 - Athletics
When the fuck did the Olympics start calling Track and Field “Athletics.” They took about a 5 spot drop based on that alone. Aside from the name, this event (if you can call it a singular event) suffers a lot from all of the boring competitions thrown in with the good ones. The Decathlon and 100M dash are cool, while the steeplechase is just stupid and confusing (why are we jumping over hurdles into water?). Cut out the fat, and this turns into a top 5 Summer Olympic sport.
⛏️ 22 - Rowing
Maybe it's my New England roots, but rowing is pretty cool to watch. The unison of movement and the tension as boats push for the finish is exciting enough to get my blood moving. Not a sport I’ll be following avidly, but one where I would be disappointed if I didn’t see a single race.
⛏️ 21 - Marathon Swimming
I honestly have yet to figure out why I find this event interesting, and I can’t imagine myself watching a second of a marathon swimming race. But long distance swimming seems hard as hell and there is a 100% chance I’d drown if I ever attempted this. Maybe that’s the key, the fact that these people can do something that would literally kill me. I have to tip my cap to that.
⛏️ 20 - Mountain Biking
For fucks sake guys, why are you doing this to me? Mountain biking makes it into the top half of the events, mostly because I don’t want to disregard all biking out of selfish spite. It also seems like the coolest of the biking events, with athletes bombing down steep hills and tricky terrain as fast as humanly possible. It’s enough to sneak this event into the top 20
⛏️ 19 - Golf
Golf could be really cool if professional golfers seemed to care at all. Unfortunately, Olympic golf is new and the real prestige comes from winning Majors, so a lot of golfers just don’t give a damn when they can take home millions if they win another tournament. Golf may get better with time, but it’s still not a top Olympic sport in 2021.
⛏️ 18 - Table Tennis
Anyone who’s ever watched professional table tennis knows that this sport is ELECTRIC. The little ping pong ball is moving a million miles an hour while completely unathletic looking humans smash it back and forth at each other. It’s only cool to watch in short bursts, but it has its moments for sure.
⛏️ 17 - Wrestling
Wrestling was gone from the Olympics until it wasn’t, saving one of the traditional events from going the way of the dodo. Thankfully, we can continue to watch people in tight uniforms grab at each other to try to pin their opponent down (exciting, right?). I’ts not the best sport, but a final in wrestling, with everything on the line, can be pretty thrilling to watch, especially because one small mistake or amazing move can be the difference between winning and losing. Not a top event, but I’ll tune in for the last day.
⛏️ 16 - Rugby
Olympic rugby isn’t the greatest, especially because the Rugby World Cup means way more, but it’s still a fun sport that we don’t get to see enough of in the US. Rugby is also not nearly as good when played in 7s, but the modified version still has some juice to it. Rugby purists and serious fans probably don’t care a ton about this event, but it’s cool to watch for the casual viewer like myself (an probably almost every other person in America)
⛏️ 15 - Boxing
Much like mainstream boxing, Olympic boxing is holding on desperately to the glory days when the gold medal was a HUGE deal. My dad likes to talk about matches back in the 70s and 80s when everyone would tune in to watch, but it’s been relegated to a second-tier event at this point. Olympic boxing is still fun to watch, especially because it’s a lot less watered down and theatrical than the shit you see at the top of the boxing world with PPV and all the money involved, but it doesn’t have the same bite that it used to.
⛏️ 14 - Sport Climbing
These fuckers are modern ninjas. Sport Climbing is relatively new, and consists of individuals climbing rock walls as fast as possible to beat the person next to them to the top (which I’m sure you probably guessed). It doesn’t sound all that cool, until you watch them fly up the wall like spider monkeys and you realize how crazy it is. This isn’t a high profile event, but it’s an absolute blast to tune in for.
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⛏️ 13 - Field Hockey
I’m not sure why I like Olympic field hockey, but I do. It’s a decently cool sport that has absolutely no clout in America, where almost nobody pays attention beyond high school. But when you tune in and watch Europeans go at each other, it’s pretty damn cool to see at the highest level. Would I care if I could watch the sport regularly? Probably not. But this is a fun event to watch once every four years.
⛏️ 12 - Beach Volleyball
Putting aside the women in bikinis playing a sport (stop sexualizing olympic athletes, you pig), beach volleyball is a pretty big deal in the Olympics. Much like field hockey, this one benefits heavily from being out of the spotlight except for the Summer Games, and it makes the event much more meaningful. Add in how fucking hard it is to be that athletic while moving in sand, and I give these competitors a hell of a lot of credit for doing what they do. Just try jumping or sprinting for more than 15 seconds on the beach and then come talk to me.
⛏️ 11 - Archery
Where shooting fails, Archery succeeds brilliantly. It’s almost archaic watching these athletes go out and shoot a bow at a target all the way at the other end of a field, but it’s still pretty damn cool to watch them dial in wind speed and distance to hit bullseye after bullseye. Maybe the event just reminds me of Robin Hood or every Medieval war movie, but watching people shoot arrows will never not be exciting to me.
⛏️ 10 - Handball
I’m honestly not sure why there isn’t more professional Handball in the US. I guess we just have enough sports already, but it’s a pretty cool sport to watch as teams battle in something akin to “soccer but with hands.” Those spin shots will get me out of my seat every damn time
⛏️ 9 - Weightlifting
Stick a bunch of meatheads in a gym while I’m trying to get a sweat in and I’ll probably want to blow my brains out. Put it on TV with humans whose bodies look like the Hulk, and I’m all in. It might be the fact that they always look like they’re about blow a blood vessel, but the split second where these athletes either make or miss a lift is one of the most heart-stopping moments in sports. I can’t get enough of it.
⛏️ 8 - Badminton
I want to laugh at badminton and call it a stupid sport but I just cant. It makes absolutely no sense that this game even exists, or made it into the Olympics, but watching Asian and European countries battle it out is a fucking wild ride. Add in how weird it is to watch them swing the racket 200 MPH only for the fly to move 5 feet, and I could sit around and enjoy badminton all day.
⛏️ 7 - Trampoline
Every kid played on a trampoline when they were young, but most of us only managed a front flip before tapping out because it’s clearly a good way to break all of your bones. Then, you get these people, who said “to hell with that” and do 17 flips and 25 spins on one jump while trying not to move off target and break their neck. How could that not be exciting.
⛏️ 6 - Water Polo
Handball, but stick them in the water? Why the hell not. It may not be as fast paced as its land counterpart, but I’m continually impressed by their ability to beat the bejesus out of each other while treading water for longer than I can jog. Add in that almost all of the athletes seem to be psychos (which I guess makes sense given the nature of the sport) and I’m all in on this one.
⛏️ 5 - Diving
All of the spinning and jumping of the trampoline, but add in the pressure to hit the water like a toothpick and make the same splash a raindrop would. Sure, the movement is exciting, but the real money shot for every fan is watching that diver hit the water and cheer or groan like they’re an expert based on the size of the splash. Seems kind of silly, but it’s somehow insanely intriguing. Unfortunately, China seems to have a chokehold on winning almost every event, but they’re so good I can simply appreciate the level of skill when I see it.
⛏️ 4 - Fencing
Two people diving at each other with swords will always be exciting. I don’t care if the weapons have rounded tips or if the athletes are covered in space suits, this is always a blast to watch. Sign me up.
⛏️ 3 - Basketball
I want to call Olympic basketball boring, but that would be disingenuous. Granted, it’s probably not as exciting as the NBA, and it isn’t comparable to the Dream Team days when all of the best athletes showed up, but I’ll still tune in for every Team USA game (men and women) because it’s still a big deal. Oh, and we’re good at it, which makes things a lot more fun. As a fan of a lot of losing teams, it’s nice to be on the other side for once.
⛏️ 2 - Volleyball
I thought basketball players were “freaks” (in the sense of being outlandish athletic specimens), but then I watched olympic volleyball. Every athlete on the floor is in the 99.9th percentile of height, and people are constantly flying at the net trying to smash a ball into each other’s faces at 100 MPH. The finals for the men’s and women’s events are probably the most exciting couple of hours of the entire Summer Games, and watching may be a better drug than heroin (not that I’ve tried heroin….).
⛏️ 1 - “Artistic“ Gymnastics
Lets just call this Gymnastics please, everybody knows which sport we’re talking about. In all seriousness, the women’s gymnastic competitions, and especially the team competition, are the highlight of the Summer Olympics. 5’2” athletes spinning on bars and flipping on balance beams in ways that defy physics, in an event that seems to be the crown jewel that everybody covets. Ignoring all of the issues that the US Gymnastics Association has had (which is hard to do, considering how terrible they were), Simone Biles is the hero we don’t deserve but will define the Olympics once again if she performs at her best. I can’t wait to watch every second of it.