Olympic Preview: Shooting

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

First Olympic Appearance: 1896

by Mike Morrison and Mark Zurlo

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Did You Know?
The Olympic shooting competition is quite a bit more humane than it was back in 1900 in Paris. Back then, for just one year, competitors fired at live pigeons. Suffice it to say that in Athens, no living creature will be harmed during the shooting competition.


Sure, you may think you have a pretty good idea what shooting is. After all, you've seen plenty of Schwarzenneger movies. See the target, point the gun, pull the trigger. Pretty easy to understand, huh? But while there were only three shooting events in the first Games in 1896, the Athens Olympics will feature seventeen, ten for men and seven for women.

The seventeen events are broken up into four separate groups: shotgun, rifle, pistol, and running-target.

  1. Shotgun Made to simulate bird shooting, competitors stand in their shooting stations and fire at clay targets. Obviously, whoever hits the most targets wins and a target is considered "hit" when any visible piece is shot off of it. The shotgun competition is actually broken up into three separate competitions—the trap, double trap, and skeet. In the trap, the shooter sees three different areas that can release the target but doesn't know which one it will come from. In the double trap, two targets are released simultaneously from the same bank of traps. And in the skeet competition, two targets are released from different traps at either end of a semicircle.
  2. Rifle Competitors shoot at a stationary target consisting of ten concentric rings, with the innermost being the "bullseye." The targets are placed either 10 meters or 50 meters away and shooters fire from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions.
  3. Pistol The pistol is very similar to the rifle events except is pistol is used instead of a rifle. Shooters must only use one hand to fire the pistol.
  4. Running event Using an air rifle with a telescopic sight (the only event where telescopic sights are allowed), shooters stand and fire at a paper target moving across a two-meter opening from ten meters away. Shooters have five seconds to hit the target in the "slow run" and 2.5 seconds in the "fast run."

The shooting competition at the 2008 Olympics will be held indoors at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall, which was the first venue built specifically for the Olympics to be completed, and will most likely be the venue where the first gold medal of the games is won. The shooting hall was built to resemble a bow, a nod to the ancient origins of shooting sports.

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