Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Olympic athletics at Tokyo: Top five things to know

Here is your guide to road, track and field events at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, including top athletes, venue information, Games schedule, and more!
By Evelyn Watta

Track and field has been one of the most-watched Olympic sports.

There will be no Usain Bolt for the first time in five Olympics, but the sprints are certain to the biggest draw.

The track and field competition will be spread over 16 sessions at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, while the marathons and race walks will be held in Sapporo, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Below, we take a look at the athletes expected to light up the Olympic Stadium, the competition schedule, and even some Olympic history in our top things to know about Olympic athletics guide.

Top Olympic athletes at Tokyo 2020

For the first time since Athens 2004, there will be no Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m start lists at the Olympics.

The Jamaican, regarded as one of the greatest sprinters of all time, set an unbeaten record winning gold at three consecutive Olympics – Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

In the absence of the track legend, there is still a stellar field of world’s fastest men looking to step in his spikes.

With world champion Christian Coleman banned, American Noah Lyles, the reigning 200m world champion, is one of the favourites to win the men’s shortest dash.

Lyle's compatriot Justin Gatlin is set for his Olympic swan song at his fifth Games.

Like Bolt, Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medallist ,launched his sprinting career in 2001, and they had raced each other since Athens 2004.

The return of South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk after a long injury lay-off following his 400m gold at Rio 2016 should also light up the track.

Another top attraction will be the 400m hurdles where on-form Karsten Warholm will be eyeing the Olympic title after the season of his life .He ran the second quickest time in history of 46.87 seconds.

The women’s sprints should also boast a top-notch field featuring Jamaica’s double Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah, as well as Bahamas track superstar Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

Miller-Uibo will be eyeing the 200m crown alongside her 400m Olympic title defence.

East African runners are likely to dominate the middle- and long-distance races.

The emergence of double distance world record holder Joshua Cheptegei should spice up the two longest track events.

The Ugandan hopes to be the man to return the 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic titles back to the region after Mo Farah ended the reign of Ethiopian and Kenyan runners over the distances.

Britain’s Farah, who achieved the double-double at London 2012 and Rio 2016, intends to defend his 10,000m crown.

Ethiopian-born Dutch runner Sifan Hasan and Rio 1500m gold medallist Faith Kipyegon both had consistent last few seasons, and are ready to challenge for Olympic titles.

Eliud Kipchoge, the Olympic champion who is also the fastest marathoner of all time, has trained his eyes on matching the feat of Abebe Bikila (1960 and 1964) and Waldemar Cierpinski, winner in 1976 and 1980.

Bikila and Cierpinski are the only men who have won the Olympic marathon twice.

Kipchoge's compatriot, Brigid Kosgei, the women's record holder who won the 2020 London marathon, is the hottest of the favourites for the women’s marathon title in her first Olympics.

In the field events, the 2020 World Athletes of the Year Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis and Yulimar Rojas have been in dazzling form and have their eyes set on their first Olympic gold medals.

Olympic athletics schedule at Tokyo 2020

The competition will take place from 30 July – 8 August 2021. All times are Japan Standard Time (UTC + 9 hours).

Date and Time: Fri 30 July 9:00 - 12:30

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's 3000m Steeplechase Round 1
  • Men's High Jump Qualifying Round
  • Men's Discus Throw Qualifying Round
  • Women's 800m Round 1
  • Men's 400m Hurdles Round 1
  • Women's 100m Round 1

Date and Time: Fri 30 July 19:00 - 21:00

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Women's 5000m Round 1
  • Women's Triple Jump Qualifying Round
  • Women's Shot Put Qualifying Round
  • Mixed 4 x 400m Relay Round 1
  • Men's 10,000m Final

Date and Time: Sat 31 July 9:00 - 12:00

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Women's 400m Hurdles Round 1
  • Women's Discus Throw Qualifying Round
  • Men's Pole Vault Qualifying Round
  • Men's 800m Round 1
  • Women's 100m Hurdles Qualifying Round
  • Men's 100m Preliminary Round

Date and Time: Sat 31 July 19:00 - 21:55

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's 10,000m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Long Jump Qualifying Round
  • Women's 100m Semi-finals
  • Men's 100m Round 1
  • Men's Discus Throw Final
  • Women's 800m Semi-finals
  • Mixed 4 x 400m Relay Final
  • Women's 100m Final

Date and Time: Sun 1 Aug. 9:10 - 12:00

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Women's Hammer Throw Qualifying Round
  • Women's 3000m Steeplechase Round 1
  • Women's Long Jump Qualifying Round
  • Men's Discus Throw Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Shot Put Final
  • Men's 400m Round 1
  • Mixed 4 x 400m Relay Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Sun 1 Aug. 19:00 - 21:55

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Women's 100m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's High Jump Final
  • Men's 100m Semi-finals
  • Women's 100m Hurdles Semi-finals
  • Women's Shot Put Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Triple Jump Final
  • Men's 800m Semi-finals
  • Men's 400m Hurdles Semi-finals
  • Men's High Jump Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 100m Final

Date and Time: Mon 2 Aug. 9:00 - 11:55

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's Hammer Throw Qualifying Round
  • Women's 1500m Round 1
  • Women's Triple Jump Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Long Jump Final
  • Women's 200m Round 1
  • Women's 100m Hurdles Final

Date and Time: Mon 2 Aug. 19:00 - 22:00

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's 100m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Long Jump Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Pole Vault Qualifying Round
  • Women's 200m Semi-finals
  • Women's 100m Hurdles Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Discus Throw Final
  • Men's 400m Semi-finals
  • Women's 400m Hurdles Semi-finals
  • Men's 3000m Steeplechase Final
  • Women's 5000m Final

Date and Time: Tue 3 Aug. 9:00 - 12:35

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's Triple Jump Qualifying Round
  • Men's 1500m Round 1
  • Women's Javelin Throw Qualifying Round
  • Women's 400m Round 1
  • Women's Discus Throw Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 3000m Steeplechase Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Long Jump Final
  • Men's 200m Round 1
  • Men's 400m Hurdles Final
  • Women's 5000m Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Tue 3 Aug. 19:00 - 21:55

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Women's Long Jump Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 110m Hurdles Round 1
  • Men's Shot Put Qualifying Round
  • Men's Pole Vault Final
  • Men's 400m Hurdles Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 5000m Round 1
  • Women's Hammer Throw Final
  • Men's 200m Semi-finals
  • Women's 800m Final
  • Women's 200m Final

Date and Time: Wed 4 Aug. 9:00 - 12:25

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's Decathlon 100m
  • Men's Javelin Throw Qualifying Round
  • Women's Heptathlon 100m Hurdles
  • Men's Decathlon Long Jump
  • Men's Pole Vault Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Heptathlon High Jump
  • Women's Hammer Throw Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 800m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 110m Hurdles Semi-finals
  • Women's 400m Hurdles Final
  • Men's Decathlon Shot Put
  • Women's 400m Hurdles Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Wed 4 Aug. 18:30 - 22:00

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's Decathlon High Jump
  • Women's 1500m Semi-finals
  • Women's Heptathlon Shot Put
  • Women's 400m Semi-finals
  • Women's 200m Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 3000m Steeplechase Final
  • Men's Hammer Throw Final
  • Women's Heptathlon 200m
  • Women's 3000m Steeplechase Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 800m Final
  • Men's Decathlon 400m
  • Men's 200m Final

Date and Time: Thu 5 Aug. 9:00 - 15:05

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's Decathlon 110m Hurdles
  • Women's High Jump Qualifying Round
  • Men's Hammer Throw Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Heptathlon Long Jump
  • Men's Decathlon Discus Throw
  • Women's 4 x 100m Relay Round 1
  • Men's 800m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 200m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Triple Jump Final
  • Men's Shot Put Final
  • Men's 4 x 100m Relay Round 1
  • Men's 110m Hurdles Final
  • Men's Decathlon Pole Vault
  • Women's Heptathlon Javelin Throw

Date and Time: Thu 5 Aug. 16:30 - 18:05

Venue: Sapporo Odori Park

  • Men's 20km Race Walk Final
  • Men's 20km Race Walk Venue Ceremony

Date and Time: Thu 5 Aug. 19:00 - 21:45

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's Shot Put Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Triple Jump Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Decathlon Javelin Throw
  • Women's Pole Vault Final
  • Women's 4 x 400m Relay Round 1
  • Men's 1500m Semi-finals
  • Men's 110m Hurdles Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 400m Final
  • Women's Heptathlon 800m
  • Men's Decathlon 1500m

Date and Time: Fri 6 Aug. 5:30 - 10:00

Venue: Sapporo Odori Park

  • Men's 50km Race Walk Final
  • Men's 50km Race Walk Venue Ceremony

Date and Time: Fri 6 Aug. 16:30 - 18:15

Venue: Sapporo Odori Park

  • Women's 20km Race Walk Final
  • Women's 20km Race Walk Venue Ceremony

Date and Time: Fri 6 Aug. 19:50 - 22:55

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's 20km Race Walk Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Pole Vault Victory Ceremony
  • Women's Heptathlon Victory Ceremony
  • Men's Decathlon Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 4 x 400m Relay Round 1
  • Women's Javelin Throw Final
  • Men's 5000m Final
  • Men's 400m Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 400m Final
  • Women's 1500m Final
  • Men's 5000m Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 400m Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 4 x 100m Relay Final
  • Women's 1500m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 4 x 100m Relay Final

Date and Time: Sat 7 Aug. 7:00 - 10:15

Venue: Sapporo Odori Park

  • Women's Marathon Final

Date and Time: Sat 7 Aug. 19:00 - 22:20

Venue: Olympic Stadium

  • Men's 50km Race Walk Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 20km Race Walk Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 4 x 100m Relay Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 4 x 100m Relay Victory Ceremony
  • Women's High Jump Final
  • Women's 10,000m Final
  • Men's Javelin Throw Final
  • Women's Javelin Throw Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 1500m Final
  • Women's 10,000m Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 1500m Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 4 x 400m Relay Final
  • Men's Javelin Throw Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 4 x 400m Relay Final
  • Women's High Jump Victory Ceremony
  • Women's 4 x 400m Relay Victory Ceremony
  • Men's 4 x 400m Relay Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Sun 8 Aug. 7:00 - 9:45

Venue: Sapporo Odori Park

  • Men's Marathon Final

Olympic Athletics venue at Tokyo 2020

Olympic Stadium

The new Olympic Stadium was opened in December 2019, replacing the Tokyo 1964 National Stadium.

It was redone to host the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Tokyo 2020 Games, as well as athletics and football matches.

The stadium has a capacity of 68,000.

GettyImages-1157471748
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Sapporo Odori Park

Sapporo Odori Park will host the Marathon and race walking events.

The park is located in the centre of Sapporo City, and is approximately 1.5km long and covers an area of about 7.8 hectares.

Olympic athletics competition format at Tokyo 2020

The discipline and events for the 10-day athletics programme and composition remains unchanged apart from the introduction of the inaugural mixed 4x400m relay - scheduled for 31 July.

The men’s steeplechase qualifying rounds on July 30 will kick off the Athletics programme, while the men’s marathon on the final day of the Games August 8, will conclude the competition.

And for the first time the women’s and men’s marathon victory ceremonies will both be held during the Games Closing Ceremony.

Olympic athletics history

Athletics at the Olympics began during the Ancient Olympics in Greece.

It has been held at every Olympics since the first modern-day Games in 1896 and is the largest sport in terms of both the number of events and the number of athletes.

The competition events comprise track and field events, marathon, and race walking events. Cross-country running was dropped from the Olympic programme after the 1924 Games.

Tug-of-war also used to be included in the earlier editions of the Games.

The U.S. is the most successful nation, with its athletes producing some of the most dominant Olympic Games performances ever.

From Carl Lewis to Jesse Owens, American athletes have shown their class.

Lewis ruled the world in the 100m, 200m, long jump and relay, clinching nine gold medals and a silver across four Olympic Games.

‘The sportsman of the century’ is one of only three Olympic athletes (Alfred Oerter and Michael Phelps) who have won a gold medal in the same individual event at four consecutive Olympic Games.

Owens won four gold medals at Berlin 1936.

His victories came in the 100m, long jump, 200m, and 4×100m relay.

Another American, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, ranks high in Olympic Athletics history.

She won three golds, one silver and two bronze in the heptathlon and long jump in four Games.

Dutch runner Fanny Blankers-Koen also clinched four gold medals at the 1948 Olympics in the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4×100m relay.

The ‘Flying Housewife’ is the last known person to have won four gold medals while pregnant.

Czech Republic's Javelin thrower Jan Železný also left a lasting legacy.

The greatest javelin thrower of the modern era Games with three gold medals was victorious at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.