One of the most popular sports that will feature at the London 2012 Olympic Games is also the biggest: Athletics features 2,000 athletes running, walking, jumping and throwing for gold.
Athletics is the perfect expression of the Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’); the competition requires athletes to run faster, throw further, jump higher and leap longer than their rivals. With 2,000 athletes competing in 47 events, Athletics is the largest single sport at the Games.
There are four main strands to the Athletics competition: track events, such as the 100m; field events, which include the High Jump and the Shot Put; combined events such as the Decathlon, a mix of track and field elements; and road events, among them the Marathon.
Staged in the brand new Olympic Stadium, the 24 track events (12 for men, 12 for women) will be held over distances ranging from 100m to 10,000m. Some events will also feature obstacles to negotiate, as in the 400m Hurdles and the 3000m Steeplechase. The majority of track events begin with one or more rounds of heats, with the best athletes eventually qualifying for the final.
There will be five road events on the Athletics programme at the London 2012 Olympic Games: the men’s and women’s Marathons (12 and 5 August respectively), the men’s and women’s 20km Race Walks (4 and 11 August respectively), and the men’s 50km Race Walk (11 August). All five road events will be held on the streets of Central London, finishing at The Mall. There are no heats: all road events consist of a single race.
The 16 field events fall into two categories: four throwing events for both men and women, namely the Shot Put, Javelin, Discus and Hammer, and four jumping events, also for both men and women. In the High Jump and the Pole Vault, athletes aim to jump higher than their rivals; in the Long Jump and Triple Jump, they try to jump further. Field events at the Games start with a qualification stage, with the best athletes qualifying for the final.
Finally, there are the two combined events: Decathlon for men and Heptathlon for women. During each competition, athletes take part in a range of running, jumping and throwing elements (10 for men, seven for women), with points awarded for their performances in each.
Olympic Athletics, past and present
The ancient Olympic Games featured the ‘stadium’ race, a sprint of roughly 192 metres. Winners in this event have been recorded as far back as 776 BC. The first modern Olympic Games in 1896 included a Marathon, which was designed specifically to pay homage to Ancient Greece.
In 1908, the race’s distance was extended from around 25 miles to 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometres) so that it finished in front of the Royal Box. This distance became standard for the Marathon and is still used today.
For London 2012, all non-road Athletics events will be held at the Olympic Stadium in the new Olympic Park. This state-of-the-art venue, which will have a capacity of 80,000 during the Games, will also host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
- Anchor: A team’s final runner in a relay race.
- Cage: The area from which competitors throw a discus or hammer. The mouth of the cage is 6m wide, and sits 7m in front of the centre of the throwing circle.
- Countback: The process used to determine the winner of a high jump or pole vault competition in which two or more athletes are tied for the best jump.
- False start: When an athlete moves off the starting blocks either before the gun has fired or within 0.10sec of the gun firing.
- Sprint: A track race over 400m or less.
Source from: http://www.london2012.com/athletics