Tuesday 21 November 2017, 02:51:01

History of Athletics

History of Athletics

The history of world athletics can be traced back to several “games” held in Europe in the classical era:

Panhellenic Games:

  • The Pythian Games (founded 527 BC) held in Delphi every four years
  • The Nemean Games (founded 516 BC) held in Argolid every two years
  • The Isthmian Games (founded 523 BC) held on the Isthmus of Corinth every two years

The Roman Games – Not of purely Greek roots, rather arising from Etruscan roots, the Roman Games did not focus on footraces and throwing. The Greek sports of chariot racing and wrestling, as well as the Etruscan sport of gladiatorial combat, took center stage here.

Olympic Games - The Ancient Olympic Games in series of competitions held between representatives of several city-states from Ancient Greece, which featured mainly athletic but also combat and chariot racing events.

A legend persists that Heracles and his father Zeus were the progenitors of the Games. The Ancient Games featured running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, and equestrian events. The Games were held every four years, and this period, known as an Olympiad.

The Olympic Games had a strong presence in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece.


The Tailteann Games(claimed foundation 1829 BC) – held near modern Telltown in Ireland, this thirty-day meeting included foot races and stone-throwing events.

The Celts, Teutons and Goths who succeeded the Romans, also held athletic contests but however, these were often related to combat training. During the Middle Ages sons of noblemen would be trained in running, leaping and wrestling, in addition to riding, jousting and arms-training. Contests between rivals and friends were common on both official and unofficial grounds.

Starting from 1796-1798, L´ Olympiade de la République was held in revolutionary France, annually and is an early forerunner to the modern summer Olympic Games. The premier event of this competition was a footrace, but various ancient Greek disciplines were also on display. The 1796 Olympiade also marks the introduction of the metric system into sport.

The first Olympic Congress of a newly created International Olympic Committee was held from June 16 to June 23, 1894, at the Sorbonne University in Paris and it was decided to revive the Olympic games two years later in Athens.

Olympic Games were revived in 1896 and less than 250 athletes participated. The Olympics featured nine sporting disciplines: athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling.

Women were first allowed to participate in track and field events in the 1928 Olympics.

The Winter Olympics At the 1921 Olympic Congress, in Lausanne, it was decided to hold a winter version of the Olympic Games. The Winter Olympics were created to include snow and ice sports impossible to hold during the Summer Games. Figure skating (in 1908 and 1920) and ice hockey (in 1920) were featured as Olympic events at the Summer Olympics.

The IOC desired to expand this list of sports to encompass other winter activities. A winter sports week (it was actually 11 days) was held in 1924 in Chamonix, France; this event became the first Winter Olympic Games.

International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), An international governing body, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), was founded in 1912; it adopted its current name, the International Association of Athletics Federations, in 2001

The IAAF established separate outdoor World Championships in 1983. Regional games like the European Championships, the Pan-American Games, and the Commonwealth Games were also born.

In addition there is a professional Golden League circuit, culminating in the IAAF World Athletics Final, and indoor championships such as the World Indoor Championships. The sport has a very high profile during major championships, especially the Olympics, but otherwise is less popular.

The AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) was the governing body in the United States until it collapsed under pressure from advancing professionalism in the late 1970s. A new governing body called The Athletics Congress (TAC) was formed. It was later renamed USA Track & Field (USATF or USA T&F). An additional, less structured organization, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), also exists in the United States to promote road racing.