Olympic DebutAthens 1896
Most Gold MedalsPaavo Nurmi (FIN)
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.
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.