Organization: Organizing Committee of the 1976 Olympic Games
Running, jumping and throwing – perhaps the three most important skill in mankind’s early developing as a hunter – are the major elements of the sport of athletics.
Man’s earliest games derived from the physical means which guaranteed his early survival – the ability to run quickly and over long distances after game, the ability to jump over obstacles while tracking down the game, and the ability to throw with accuracy such weapons as rocks, spears and clubs to kill his quarry. Thus the early forms of sporting activity were another way of maintaining hunting skills at a high level of development.
Another it is difficult to separate legend from reality, it is quite certain that the Bronze Age saw the early beginnings of this kind of activity. The Egyptians practised athletic sports more than 4,000 years ago and the Minoans and ancient Greeks applied method to the performance of these movements around 1500 B.C.
At first, the early Greek forms of athletics were developed as military training and it took a long time for the evolution to peaceful competition to come about.
More than 2,800 years ago, the Greek city states organized athletics meets to celebrate the visit of important guests and to honour the gods. The ancient Olympic Games evolved from this and, throughout Ancient Greek times, the history of the Olympic Games was the history of athletics.
For more than 1,000 years, until the Games were abolished in 394 A.D. by Theodosius, the foundation of the Olympic Games was the running, throwing and jumping events of track and field.
Large or even medium scale athletics competitions lay dormant for almost a millennium after Theodosius saw fit to condemn them as “barbarous acts” and slowly began to revive in Medieval times in Europe. Both the Swiss and the Irish have documented evidence of athletics competitions during those times but four hundred more years would go by before athletics competitions as we know them came about.
English schools and universities developed modern athletics in the 19th century and from there it spread throughout Europe and North America.
The development of the sport was given great impetus by the restoration of the Olympic Games in 1896 and, today, it is practised all over the world.
As is the case in most aspects of our evolution, the history of women’s athletics is very short as they were not even admitted to the modern Games until after the First World War. Many believe the change in mentality had to do with the presence of women in factories and in the armies of the period. The first women’s international competitions in the sport took place in 1918 but it was not until 1928, at Amsterdam, that women first competed in the Olympic Games.
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