Official athletic sports events were held in Ancient Greece at the first Olympic Games. Olympics were a tradition of athletic competitions that included track and field events (and chariot-races). Women were not allowed to compete. Athletics includes several sports events involving running, throwing, and jumping but there are also combined events. The sport developed over the centuries through many events around the world.

Athletics disciplines


Running women

Running competitions take place on a track, 400 meters in length in an oval shape, except the Marathon and Race Walk, which are held on the road. There are several running events:

Sprints include different length competitions- 50, 55 and 60 meters, which are held only indoors; and 100, 200 and 400 meters, which are part of the Olympic Games, they take place on an outdoors track.

Middle Distance Events are longer that Sprints and are up to 3000 meters. They include:

  • 800 meters, which has always been an Olympic sport. It is run over two laps of the 400 meters track. Women competed in it for the first time in 1928 but had to be excluded until 1960 because of the exhaustion it caused to the competitors.
  • 1000 meters is not very common, it is usually run indoors at a men’s heptathlon events.
  • 1500 meters covers three and three-quarter laps over an Olympic- sized track.
  • 3000 and 3000 meters steeplechase
Long Distance Events
  • 5000 meters is part of the Olympic Games since the Olympiad in Stockholm in 1912, women first took part in it at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
  • 10 000 meters is also one of the track events at the Olympics added in 1912, women participated for the first time in 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

Hurdles- the athlete is required to run over barriers. Olympic disciplines are:

  • 110 meters for men. It has been part of the Olympic programme since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The height of the hurdles is 1.067 meters.
  • 100 meters for women. The height of the hurdles is 83.8 cm. The hurdles discipline for women was included to the Olympic programme in 1932- the length of the distance was 80 meters and was lengthened to 100 meters in 1972 Summer Olympics.

Sprint Relay are events in which four competitors race as a team. The purpose is to pass a metal baton between athletes of one team. There are several lengths run in the Olympiad:

  • 4 x 100 meters relay was included in the 1912 Olympiad and women began competing in 1928.
  • 4 x 400 meters
  • 4 x 800 meters


High jump

High Jump – competitors have to jump over a bar without any devices to help them. The bar is lifted after each successful jump and there are three attempts for each height. The longest standing record in high jump for men belongs to Javier Sotomayor (Cuba)- 2.45 m and it was set in 1993. The women’s record has been held by the Bulgarian athlete Stefka Konstadinova since 1987- the longest-held record in this event- it was 2.09 meters.

Long Jump – it combines speed, agility and strength. The purpose of the athlete is to jump as far as possible from the take off point. The sport has been part of the Ancient Olympic Games.

Triple Jump – it is similar to the long jump only it is performed with a hop, a step and then a jump into the sand. It has been an Ancient Olympic sport and has been a part of the Modern Games since 1896.

Pole Vault – the competitor uses a long pole, which is flexible, to help them leap over a high bar. The sport has been a full medal sport since the first Modern Olympic Games. Women were allowed to compete in it at the Olympiad in Sydney 2000.


Shot Put – involves throwing a heavy metal ball with a pushing motion.

Discus Throw – it has been part of the Modern Olympiad since 1896 and women first participated in 1928. The sport is an icon of the Olympic Games and images of athletes throwing discus have been used for posters for Olympic Games as well as for stamps.

Hammer Throw – a metal ball attached to a wire is to be thrown in this event. This sport was included in the Olympic programme in 1900 but women did not take part in it until 1995.

Javelin Throw – the object to throw is called javelin, which is made of metal, fiberglass or carbon fiber, and looks like a spear.

Combined events

Pentathlon includes (outdoor): Long jump, Javelin, 200 meters, Discus, 1500 meters.
Pentathlon (indoor): Hurdles, Shot Put, Long Jump, High Jump, Middle Distance.

Heptathlon involves:

  • Outdoors (women): 100 m Hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, 200 m, Long Jump, Javelin, 800 m.
  • Indoors (men): 60 m, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 60m Hurdles, Pole Vault, 1000 m.
  • Decathlon: 100 m, Long Jump, Shot Put , High Jump, 400 metres, 110 m High Hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500 m.