Athletics, derived from the Greek world "athlos" meaning battle or struggle, is the purest form of sport and as old as humanity itself. Elemental competitions in running, jumping and throwing have been traced in the ancient world to Greece and Ireland. Classic Greek literature describes races in Hellas more than 1,000 years before the Christian era and the ancient Olympics were first staged in Olympia in the northwestern Peloponnese. Dates vary for the first Games but the first recorded winner was Coroebus in 884BC. Coroebus won the stadion, a race of approximately 200 metres and the only event on the early programme.
The Greeks sprinted, long jumped and threw the discus and the javelin. After the Roman emperor Theodosius decreed the end of the ancient Games in AD 393, athletics survived mostly in European military tournaments until the late 19th century when the foundations of the modern sport were laid in Victorian England. By the time of the 1896 Athens Games, athletics was recognisably the sport it remains today with running as its centre. It is the main sport of the modern Olympics. The sprint events, where pure speed prevails, are the 100, 200 and 400 metres (one lap of the track). The middle distances, a blend of speed and stamina, are the 800 and 1,500 metres and the long distances, mostly stamina, comprise the 5,000 and 10,000. The longest event is the 26.1m marathon, a conscious throwback to ancient Greece and the legend of Phidippides who ran from Marathon to Athens to proclaim the victory of the Athenians over the Persians before promptly dropping dead. Field events, staged inside the oval track, include high, long and triple jumps and the pole vault. Throwing events include the javelin, discus, shot put and discus. Multi-events, evoking the Greek ideal of the all-round athlete, are the decathlon (10 events) for men and the heptathlon (seven) for women. There are 24 men's events and 23 women's, the most in any sport at these Olympics.
Men: 100 metres, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000, 10,000, marathon, 3,000 steeplechase, 110 hurdles, 400 hurdles, high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot, discus, hammer, javelin, decathlon, 20km walk, 50km walk, 4x100 relay, 4x400 relay. Women: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 3,000 metre steeplechase (new event), 5,000, 10,000, marathon, 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot, discus, hammer, javelin, heptathlon, 20km walk, 4x100 relay, 4x400 relay.
A total of 2,000 athletes, including 1,100 men, will take part.
Men 100m: Justin Gatlin (USA) 200m: Shawn Crawford (USA) 400m: Jeremy Wariner (USA) 800m: Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia) 110m hurdles: Liu Xiang (China) 400m hurdles: Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) 1,500m: Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 3,000m steeplechase: Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya) 5,000m: Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 10,000m: Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) 20km walk: Ivano Brugnetti (Italy) 50km walk: Robert Korzeniowski (Poland) Marathon: Stefano Baldini (Italy) 4x100m relay: Britain (Jason Gardner, Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish, Mark Lewis-Francis) 4x400m relay: U.S. (Otis Harris, Derrick Brew, Jeremy Wariner, Darold Williamson) High jump: Stefan Holm (Sweden) Long jump: Dwight Phillips (USA) Triple jump: Christian Olsson (Sweden) Shot: Yuriy Bilonog (Ukraine) Javelin: Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway) Hammer: Koji Murofushi (Japan) Discus: Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania) Pole vault: Timothy Mack (USA) Decathlon: Roman Sebrle (Czech Republic)
Women 100m: Yuliya Nesterenko (Belarus) 200m: Veronica Campbell (Jamaica) 400m: Tonique Williams-Darling (Bahamas) 800m: Kelly Holmes (Britain) 100m hurdles: Joanna Hayes (USA) 400m hurdles: Fani Halkia (Greece) 1,500m: Kelly Holmes (Britain) 5,000m: Meseret Defar (Ethiopia) 10,000m: Xing Huina (China) 20km walk: Athanasia Tsoumeleka (Greece) Marathon: Mizuki Noguchi (Japan) 4x100m relay: Jamaica (Tanya Lawrence, Sherone Simpson, Aleen Bailey, Veronica Campbell) 4x400m relay: U.S. (Deedee Trotter, Monique Henderson, Sanya Richards, Monique Hennagan) High jump: Yelena Slesarenko (Russia) Long jump: Tatyana Lebedeva (Russia) Triple jump: Françoise Mbango Etone (Cameroon) Shot: Yumileidi Cumba (Cuba) Javelin: Osleidys Menéndez (Cuba) Hammer: Olga Kuzenkova (Russia) Discus: Natalya Sadova (Russia) Pole vault: Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia) Heptathlon: Carolina Kluft (Sweden)
Aug. 15 ? Men's shot, women's 10,000 metres Aug. 16 ? Men's 20-km walk, women's shot, men's 100 metres, women's heptathlon Aug. 17 ? Women's marathon, men's hammer, women's 3,000 metres steeplechase, women's triple jump, women's 100 metres, men's 10,000 metres Aug. 18 ? Women's discus, women's pole vault, men's long jump, men's 3,000 metres steeplechase, women's 800 metres, men's 400 metres hurdles Aug. 19 ? Men's high jump, men's discus, women's 400 metres, women's 100 metres hurdles, men's 1500 metres Aug. 20 ? women's hammer, men's 200 metres, women's 400 metres hurdles Aug. 21 ? women's 20-km walk, women's javelin, women's 200 metres, men's triple jump, men's 400 metres, men's 110 metres hurdles Aug. 22 ? Men's 50-km walk, decathlon, women's long jump, men's pole vault, women's 5,000 metres, women's 4x100 relay, men's 4x100 relay Aug. 23 ? men's javelin, women's high jump, men's 800 metres, women's 1,500 metres, men's 5,000 metres, women's 4x400 relay, men's 4x400 relay Aug. 24 ? Men's marathon
The National Stadium *Reuters