The oldest form of organized sport is track and field athletics, comprised of as many as 25 distinct events. While the sport was established by the late 1800s in many countries, it wasn’t until the Olympic Games were revived in 1896 that interest in athletics spread worldwide. The sport was contested at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens as a men’s only event. Women’s track and field event’s debuted at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.
Men’s track events include the 100-, 200-, 400-, 800-, 1,500-, 5,000-, and 10,000-metre runs; the 3,000-metre steeplechase; the 110- and 400-metre hurdles; and the 400- and 1,500-metre relays. Field events include the high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and javelin throw. The decathlon combines 10 track and field events. The only difference in women’s track and field is a 100-metre hurdles event rather than 110-metres. And women compete in a heptathlon, which includes seven events, rather than 10.
Track and field champions from the United States include Eddie Tolan, Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis in the 100-metre sprint, Wilma Rudolph in all three sprints and Florence Griffith Joyner in the 100- and 200-metres. Lee Evans and Michael Johnson set world records in the 400-metres. Harrison Dillard, Glenn Davis and Edwin Moses were standout in hurdles, while Al Oerter is legendary in the discus throw and Jesse Owens and Bob Beamon in the long jump event.
Para track and field events have been contested at every Summer Paralympics since the first games in 1960. The United States dominated para track and field events from 1964 to 1996.
After an athletic career that included participating in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games, Avery Brundage started a business career. He later served as president of the American Olympic Association and then was president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972.