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Athletics


Athletics was contested in the first ancient Olympic Games, and champions have been recorded from as far back as 776 BC.

First and original

Throughout recorded sports history, athletics has always been practised. The first event contested in the ancient Olympic Games was the “stadium” race, a sprint of about 192 metres. Winners in this event have been recorded from as far back as 776 BC.

Ancient events

Much like today, the ancient Olympic Games included a wide variety of track and field events. Such events included longer foot races, a race in armour, and a pentathlon event that consisted of the “stadium” race, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw and wrestling.

Across the globe

Similar events were held in ancient Greece at the Isthmian, Nemean and Pythian Games. Throughout Europe, local fairs and festivals often included running, jumping and throwing events. In Ireland and Scotland, these developed into organised sets of Tailteann and Highland Games, respectively. There was also a tradition of “pedestrian” events – often with heavy betting involved – in the 18th and 19 centuries, especially in Great Britain, which normally involved walking or running races.

Modern organisation

The modern format of athletics, in which a variety of running, jumping, throwing, walking and combined events are competed at a single “meeting” or “meet”, evolved in the late 19th century, when schools and military colleges began to incorporate sports and exercise as part of education programmes. The earliest recorded meeting dates back to 1840 in Shropshire, England, but specialised championships began to thrive in the 1880s in the USA, UK, and throughout Europe, as well as in other developed nations.

Olympic history

Since 1896, athletics has been on the programme of each edition of the Games of the Olympiad. Its presence on the Games programme has allowed its popularity to increase across the world. This popularity was also strengthened by the creation of the IAAF in 1912. Women’s events appeared for the first time at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, while the men’s programme was standardised as of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Although at the beginning women were authorised to participate in only some events, today their programme is almost identical to that of the men.

The 1960s saw a boom in athletics in developing countries, with the success of African runners and sprinters of Caribbean origin. Americans have for a long time reigned over men’s athletics, although European nations have also dominated. For the women, the Soviet Union and the GDR (East Germany) dominated the competitions before their dissolution.

More recently, high-level Asian athletes have risen up the ranks. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, athletes from 62 countries competed in the finals.

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Gallery

Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Men’s 800m
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Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Men’s 800m

Tasew Yada Mulu ETH leads in the Men's 800m Stage 2 Heat 3 at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday 15th October 2018.
Florian Eisele for IOC/OIS
Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Women’s Cross Country
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Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Women’s Cross Country

Mekides Abebe Demewoz ETH runs in the Athletics Women's Cross Country Final in the Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina Monday 15th October 2018
Florian Eisele for IOC/OIS
Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Men's Discus Throw
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Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Men's Discus Throw

Jorge Luis Contreras PUR in action during the Final of the Athletics Mens Discus Throw at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park during The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday 14th October 2018.
Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC
Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Women's Long Jump
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Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Women's Long Jump

Emma Piffaretti SUI competes in the Women's Long Jump Stage 2 at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday 14th October 2018.
Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC
Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Men's High Jump
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Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Men's High Jump

Bilel Afer ALG in action during Stage 2 of the Athletics Mens High Jump at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park during The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday 14th October 2018.
Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC
Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Women's Pole Vault
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Buenos Aires 2018 - Athletics - Women's Pole Vault

Krystsina Kantsavenka BLR competes in the Women's Pole Vault Stage 2 at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday 14th October 2018.
Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC
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