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For centuries, canoes were used as a means of transport on a daily basis in North America, Siberia and Greenland. Primarily a tool for hunting and fishing, it first became a sport in the mid-19th century in Great Britain. Olympic canoe is split into two disciplines: canoe slalom and canoe sprint.

Brief overview of the rules

Canoe and kayak races feature on the Olympic Games programme, each with their own specific rules. Canoers kneel in the boat and use a single-blade paddle on one side at a time, whereas kayakers are seated and used a double-bladed paddle.

Slalom races take place on a white-water course, with traditional natural river courses giving way to artificial courses.  Competitors have to navigate boats through a course of gates (18 to 25) in the fastest time possible, taking care not to incur penalties for missing or touching gates. These races put athletes’ concentration, reactions and technique to the test.

Canoe sprint races take place on flatwater and feature sprints over various distances (200m, 500m or 1000m for the men’s events), with one, two or four athletes per boat.

Olympic history

Canoe slalom made its debut at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and became a permanent Olympic fixture at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. European countries dominate canoe slalom, with no less than 90% of Olympic slalom medals under their belt. For instance, Europe missed out on a mere three men’s medals between the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Games.

Canoe sprint, on the other hand, became an official Olympic sport at the Berlin 1936 Games. It had already featured as a demonstration sport at the Paris 1924 Games.

Events in 2024


  • Kayak Single 1000m (men’s)
  • Kayak Single 500m (women’s)
  • Kayak Double 500m (women’s / men’s)
  • Kayak Four 500m (women’s / men’s)
  • Canoe Single 1000m (men’s)
  • Canoe Single 200m (women’s)
  • Canoe Double 500m (women’s / men’s)


  • Kayak (women’s / men’s)
  • Canoe Single (women’s / men’s)
  • Extreme Canoe Slalom (women’s / men’s)

Venue in 2024

Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium

International organisation

International federation : International Canoe Federation (ICF)

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