Athletics

Facts

Discipline of Athletics
Participants 21918
NOCs 226
Competitions held 977 (Venues)
Distinct events 192
IF World Athletics

Description

Athletics, or track & field, is the original Olympic sport. The first event contested in the Ancient Olympics was the stadion, a sprint of about 190 metres. Recorded victors in this event are known as far back as 776 B.C. Other athletics events in the Ancient Olympics included longer races, races in armor, and a pentathlon consisting of the stadion, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, and wrestling.

Throughout recorded sports history, athletics has always been practiced. Many of the attempted revivals of the Olympics in the 19th century consisted mostly of athletics events. Since the revival of the Olympics in 1896, athletics has been the most publicized sport on the Olympic Program. Today, athletics is rivaled only by football (soccer) and volleyball as the sport practiced in the most countries in the world, based on number of nations within the international federation. The sport is governed internationally by the World Athletics (WA) (formerly the International Amateur Athletic Federation [IAAF]), which was formed on 17 July 1912 in Stockholm. The organization was renamed to International Association of Athletics Federations in 2001 and has 214 member nations as of 2018.

Athletics has been held at every Olympics. Women’s athletics began at the 1928 Olympics and has been contested continually since. The program has varied but has been fairly standard since 1932. The current program includes sprint races (100, 200, and 400 metres), middle-distance races (800 and 1,500 metres), distance races (5,000 metres, 10,000 metres and marathon [26 miles, 385 yards (42.195 km)]), hurdle races (110 metres for men, 100 metres for women, and 400 metres for both), steeplechase (3,000 metres for men and women), walking events (20 km. for men and women, and 50 km. for men), flat jumping events (long jump and triple jump), vertical jumping events (high jump and pole vault), throwing events (shot put, discus throw, hammer throw, and javelin throw), and multi-events (decathlon for men and heptathlon for women).

Although women were first allowed to compete in only a few events, today they have a program with almost as many events as the men. The only current differences in the women’s program are that they have only one walking event (20 km), and they compete in the heptathlon, as opposed to the decathlon for men (this may change in the future).

The United States’ men have always been the top performers in the world in track & field athletics. Among the women, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany) were the top powers after their admission to the Olympics, and prior to their dissolution by the political events at the end of the 1980s.

All-time medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 334 258 206 798
Soviet Union URS 64 55 74 193
Great Britain GBR 55 80 69 204
Finland FIN 48 36 30 114
East Germany GDR 38 36 35 109
Kenya KEN 30 37 29 96
Poland POL 25 18 14 57
Germany GER 22 43 45 110
Jamaica JAM 22 35 19 76
Ethiopia ETH 22 11 20 53
Australia AUS 21 26 26 73
Russian Federation RUS 20 20 19 59
Sweden SWE 19 21 41 81
Italy ITA 19 15 26 60
Canada CAN 14 15 31 60
France FRA 13 26 30 69
West Germany FRG 12 14 17 43
Romania ROU 11 14 10 35
Cuba CUB 11 13 18 42
Czechoslovakia TCH 11 8 5 24
Hungary HUN 10 12 18 40
New Zealand NZL 10 3 11 24
South Africa RSA 9 13 6 28
People's Republic of China CHN 8 10 14 32
Greece GRE 7 12 10 29
Unified Team EUN 7 11 3 21
Japan JPN 7 9 9 25
Norway NOR 7 5 8 20
Morocco MAR 6 5 8 19
Netherlands NED 6 4 6 16
Bulgaria BUL 5 8 6 19
Belgium BEL 5 5 2 12
Brazil BRA 5 3 9 17
The Bahamas BAH 5 2 5 12
Czech Republic CZE 5 1 7 13
Algeria ALG 4 3 2 9
Portugal POR 4 2 4 10
Ireland IRL 4 2 1 7
Mexico MEX 3 6 2 11
Belarus BLR 3 5 6 14
Spain ESP 3 5 6 14
Trinidad and Tobago TTO 3 4 8 15
Lithuania LTU 3 1 2 6
Croatia CRO 3 1 1 5
Nigeria NGR 2 4 7 13
Ukraine UKR 2 3 12 17
Argentina ARG 2 3 0 5
Tunisia TUN 2 2 1 5
Estonia EST 2 1 3 6
Kazakhstan KAZ 2 1 2 5
Bahrain BRN 2 1 0 3
Dominican Republic DOM 2 1 0 3
Uganda UGA 2 0 1 3
Cameroon CMR 2 0 0 2
Luxembourg LUX 2 0 0 2
Austria AUT 1 2 4 7
Slovenia SLO 1 2 1 4
Colombia COL 1 1 1 3
Burundi BDI 1 1 0 2
Ecuador ECU 1 1 0 2
Grenada GRN 1 1 0 2
Mixed team MIX 1 1 0 2
Republic of Korea KOR 1 1 0 2
Panama PAN 1 0 2 3
Mozambique MOZ 1 0 1 2
Slovakia SVK 1 0 0 1
Syrian Arab Republic SYR 1 0 0 1
Tajikistan TJK 1 0 0 1
Switzerland SUI 0 6 2 8
Denmark DEN 0 4 3 7
Latvia LAT 0 4 1 5
Namibia NAM 0 4 0 4
Chile CHI 0 2 0 2
India IND 0 2 0 2
Sri Lanka SRI 0 2 0 2
United Republic of Tanzania TAN 0 2 0 2
Yugoslavia YUG 0 2 0 2
Qatar QAT 0 1 2 3
Chinese Taipei TPE 0 1 1 2
Iceland ISL 0 1 1 2
Venezuela VEN 0 1 1 2
Bohemia BOH 0 1 0 1
Botswana BOT 0 1 0 1
Côte d'Ivoire CIV 0 1 0 1
Guatemala GUA 0 1 0 1
Haiti HAI 0 1 0 1
Islamic Republic of Iran IRI 0 1 0 1
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia KSA 0 1 0 1
Senegal SEN 0 1 0 1
Sudan SUD 0 1 0 1
Zambia ZAM 0 1 0 1
Turkey TUR 0 0 3 3
Philippines PHI 0 0 2 2
West Indies Federation WIF 0 0 2 2
Australasia ANZ 0 0 1 1
Barbados BAR 0 0 1 1
Djibouti DJI 0 0 1 1
Eritrea ERI 0 0 1 1
Puerto Rico PUR 0 0 1 1
Serbia SRB 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Paavo Nurmi FIN 9 3 0 12
Carl Lewis USA 9 1 0 10
Ray Ewry USA 8 0 0 8
Usain Bolt JAM 8 0 0 8
Allyson Felix USA 6 3 0 9
Ville Ritola FIN 5 3 0 8
Hannes Kolehmainen FIN 4 1 0 5
Emil Zátopek TCH 4 1 0 5
Evelyn Ashford USA 4 1 0 5
Mel Sheppard USA 4 1 0 5

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
100 metres Men 29
200 metres Men 27
400 metres Men 29
800 metres Men 29
1,500 metres Men 29
5,000 metres Men 24
10,000 metres Men 24
Marathon Men 29
110 metres Hurdles Men 29
400 metres Hurdles Men 26
3,000 metres Steeplechase Men 23
4 × 100 metres Relay Men 24
4 × 400 metres Relay Men 24
20 kilometres Walk Men 16
50 kilometres Walk Men 19
High Jump Men 34
Pole Vault Men 33
Long Jump Men 40
Triple Jump Men 30
Shot Put Men 41
Discus Throw Men 33
Hammer Throw Men 32
Javelin Throw Men 25
Decathlon Men 24
100 metres Women 21
200 metres Women 18
400 metres Women 14
800 metres Women 16
1,500 metres Women 12
5,000 metres Women 6
10,000 metres Women 8
Marathon Women 9
100 metres Hurdles Women 12
400 metres Hurdles Women 9
3,000 metres Steeplechase Women 3
4 × 100 metres Relay Women 21
4 × 400 metres Relay Women 12
20 kilometres Walk Women 5
High Jump Women 21
Pole Vault Women 5
Long Jump Women 18
Triple Jump Women 6
Shot Put Women 18
Discus Throw Women 21
Hammer Throw Women 5
Javelin Throw Women 20
Heptathlon Women 9
100 metres Boys 2
200 metres Boys 2
400 metres Boys 2
800 metres Boys 1
1,000 metres Boys 1
1,500 metres Boys 1
3,000 metres Boys 2
110 metres Hurdles Boys 2
400 metres Hurdles Boys 2
2,000 metres Steeple Chase Boys 2
Medley Relay Boys 2
10,000 metres Walk Boys 2
High Jump Boys 11
Pole Vault Boys 7
Long Jump Boys 10
Triple Jump Boys 2
Shot Put Boys 10
Discus Throw Boys 5
Hammer Throw Boys 6
Javelin Throw Boys 2
100 metres Girls 2
200 metres Girls 2
400 metres Girls 2
1,000 metres Girls 1
800 metres Girls 1
3,000 metres Girls 2
1,500 metres Girls 1
100 metres Hurdles Girls 2
400 metres Hurdles Girls 2
2,000 metres Steeple Chase Girls 2
Medley Relay Girls 1
5,000 metres Walk Girls 2
High Jump Girls 2
Pole Vault Girls 2
Long Jump Girls 2
Triple Jump Girls 2
Shot Put Girls 2
Discus Throw Girls 2
Hammer Throw Girls 2
Javelin Throw Girls 2
8 × 100 metres Relay Mixed Youth 1
60 metres Men 2
100 yards Men 13
220 yards Men 5
440 yards Men 10
880 yards Men 6
1 mile Men 7
2 miles Men 4
5 mile Men 3
120 yards Hurdles Men 9
200 metres Hurdles Men 2
220 yards Hurdles Men 5
2,500 metres Steeplechase Men 1
2,590 metres Steeplechase Men 1
3,200 metres Steeplechase Men 1
4,000 metres Steeplechase Men 1
4 × 440 yards Relay Men 1
1,600 metres Medley Relay Men 1
3,000 metres, Team Men 3
3 mile, Team Men 1
5,000 metres, Team Men 1
4 mile, Team Men 1
1,500 metres Walk Men 1
3,000 metres Walk Men 2
3,500 metres Walk Men 1
10 kilometres Walk Men 5
10 mile Walk Men 1
Cross-Country, Individual Men 3
Cross-Country, Team Men 3
Standing High Jump Men 5
Standing Long Jump Men 5
Standing Triple Jump Men 3
Shot Put, Both Hands Men 1
56-pound Weight Throw Men 9
Stone Throw Men 3
Discus Throw, Greek Style Men 2
Discus Throw, Both Hands Men 1
Javelin Throw, Both Hands Men 1
Javelin Throw, Freestyle Men 2
Javelin Throw for Accuracy Men 1
Bolo Throw Men 1
Baseball Throw Men 6
Ball Throw for Accuracy Men 1
Pentathlon Men 3
Pentathlon (Ancient) Men 1
Pentathlon, Team Men 1
All-Around Championship Men 1
Team Men 3
Special Scratch Pole Vault #1 Men 1
Special Scratch Pole Vault #2 Men 1
60 yards, Handicap Men 1
100 yards, Handicap Men 5
100 metres, Handicap Men 1
220 yards, Handicap Men 5
400 metres, Handicap Men 1
440 yards, Handicap Men 4
800 metres, Handicap Men 1
880 yards, Handicap Men 5
1,500 metres, Handicap Men 1
1 mile, Handicap Men 4
2 miles, Handicap Men 4
120 yards Hurdles, Handicap Men 3
110 metre hurdles, Handicap Men 1
220 yards Hurdles, Handicap Men 3
400 metre hurdles, Handicap Men 1
2,500 metre steeplechase, Handicap Men 1
1 mile, Team, Handicap Men 1
High Jump, Handicap Men 6
Long Jump, Handicap Men 6
Pole Vault, Handicap Men 6
Shot Put, Handicap Men 6
Discus Throw, Handicap Men 6
Hammer Throw, Handicap Men 5
56-pound Weight Throw, Handicap Men 3
Team, Handicap Men 3
100 metres, Professionals Men 1
400 metres, Professionals Men 1
1,500 metres, Professionals Men 1
5,000 metres, Professionals Men 1
6-hour race, Professionals Men 1
110 metre hurdles, Professionals Men 1
2,500 metre steeplechase, Professionals Men 1
High Jump, Professionals Men 1
Long Jump, Professionals Men 1
Shot Put, Professionals Men 1
1,500 metres Wheelchair Men 6
3,000 metres Women 3
80 metres Hurdles Women 8
10 kilometres Walk Women 2
Pentathlon Women 5
800 metres Wheelchair Women 6
50 yards Boys 3
100 yards Boys 9
220 yards Boys 9
440 yards Boys 7
880 yards Boys 6
1 mile Boys 6
2 miles Boys 1
5 miles Boys 1
120 yards Hurdles Boys 5
220 yards Hurdles Boys 5
4 × 220 yards Relay Boys 1
4 × 440 yards Relay Boys 3
56-pound Weight Throw Boys 1
Team Boys 6