THEY SHOOT PIGS, DON'T THEY?
Well, kind of. At least they do at the Olympics, where an event
called Running Boar (or, more formally, Running Game Target) has been
on the shooting schedule since 1972. But you'd better hurry if you
want to catch it. It has been an obscure event all along, and after
the Seoul Games, it will be killed off.
O.K., so these pigs are only paper. And, granted, their thick
black bristles make them look less like Porky and more like Gorky.
But pigs is pigs.
In Running Boar, just called ''pig'' by its participants, a
life-size lithograph of a wild hog, mounted on rails, bursts from
behind a barricade, glides 10 meters and disappears. During its
five-second appearance, the marksman, 50 meters away, fixes the
porker in the telescopic sights of his .22 rifle and shoots for the
10-ring, just off the picnic shoulder. Then the pig, a glutton for
punishment, charges from the opposite direction, 30 times in all. The
next day the pig goes through its paces twice as fast.
In truth, pig is something of a bore. The pig never halts its
progress and, because it is way down at the end of the firing range,
spectators have nary a clue whether the target has been hit. Pig
lovers on hand to watch the sport at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles
followed the scoring action on video monitors. The bull's-eye on the
pig's shoulder nets 10 points. The pig's eye nets nothing, since it's
beyond the 10-ring. Nobody ever gets a perfect score. The world
record is 596 out of a possible 600, set in 1987 by Nikolai Lapin of
the Soviet Union, who is expected to shoot in Seoul.
Running Game was actually an Olympic event at the Paris Olympics
in 1900. However, the animal depicted on the target back then, and in
the event's sporadic Olympic appearances through 1956, was a deer.
Running Game was not included in the next three Summer Games (Rome,
Toyko and Mexico City), but it reappeared on the schedule at Munich
in 1972, with a wild boar as the target. ''The deer was dropped after
deer hunting was outlawed in Western Europe,'' says Martin
Edmondson, coach of the U.S.'s two-man team. ''Boars became the
target because they're the only cloven-hoofed game there that can be
legally shot on the run.''
For a sport that has never really caught on, Running Boar has a
fair share of tradition. When the Germans, East or West, host an
international pig tournament, they consecrate the occasion by
roasting a boar on a spit. France's top dog at pig, Jean-Luc
Tricoire, has worn the same tattered T-shirt to events since winning
the 1983 world championship in Edmonton. But the real secret of his
success remains laced in mystery. Tricoire's prematch ritual has
included sausaging his feet into the same 16-year-old pair of shoes
and pulling the laces up tight. Call it hogwash, but he believes that
if the laces break, he'll do well. If not, his concentration usually
comes unstrung. ''My shoes have become a legend,'' he says.
Another tradition is that everybody in the sport -- Communists and
capitalist pigs alike -- gets along well. ''It's amazing,'' Edmondson
says, offering an insight into the event -- or, if you will, casting
a pearl about swine. ''No matter which country's shooting at which in
real life, or who's killing whom, you walk out on the field and
nobody's enemies anymore. We don't think of the Russians as lousy
Commies. We're all friends. Everybody takes their anger out on the
Yet Olympic officials have decided that after the Seoul Games, pig
will be sent to the stockyards. Pork futures are indeed grim. ''What
they're doing to the sport isn't fit for a pig,'' says one irate U.S.
marksman. Just as the human silhouettes in international rapid-fire
pistol events were replaced by drawings of coffins (which didn't play
any better, p.r.-wise) and finally by inoffensive bull's-eyes, pig is
slated to be depigged by the '92 Games; the portrait of a boar in
full stride will be replaced by a plain old 10-ring target. On top of
that, the range will be reduced to 10 meters, and the competing
marksmen will use air rifles.
Edmondson figures that pig is a victim of pigheadedness. ''People
relate it to hunting,'' he says gravely. ''We look like we're
training people to shoot at animals. We all hate to see it go, but we
don't want to be known to the sports world as animal killers.''
So after the '88 Games, pig will be extinct. In the words of
everyone's favorite pig, ''Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks.''
This is an article from the Sept. 14, 1988 issue