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Who Invented Track and Field? – A Short History of the Sport
Like many action sports today, athletics has its origins in the first Olympic Games in Greece. When you begin to investigate who invented athletics, you find that, again, like football, athletics disappeared during the “dark” ages and reemerged with the modern organization during the 1800s.
Since they didn’t have jeeps, chariots, and trucks in the ancient world, soldiers prided themselves on their athleticism. Running was one of the very first competitive sports, and it is also one of the favorite sports in today’s games. There is some dispute as to when exactly the Olympic Games began, with a discrepancy in guesses from 776 BC until the 9th or 10th century BC.
There was also a gap in the games, in the Middle Ages. In 1896 they were again held in Athens, as organizers tried to bring back the old tradition. One of the features of these games was what is now called a “marathon race”. It was called a “marathon” to honor the run made by Pheidippides in 490 BC from the Greek city of Marathon to Sparta. He ran all day to warn his comrades of the Persian invasions at Marathon. This distance was about 149 miles; today’s races are around 26 miles, considerably shorter. When London hosted the 1908 Olympics, their “marathon” course was 26 miles 385 yards (42,195 kilometers), from the starting point to the stadium.
So if you want to know who invented athletics, you might want to give that honor to Pheidippides. However, bronze tripods were discovered before its run, in the 10th century BC, which some believe were awards for earlier games at Olympia. Or, if you want to look at the more sophisticated development of athletics, think of the year 1849, in England, when the Royal Military Academy held its first athletic meet. Maybe they should be credited for who invented athletics?
The old games eventually expanded to include more racing, boxing, wrestling, and a pentathlon with five running, throwing, and jumping events. In the United States, organized athletics events date back to the 1860s. Collegiate and amateur groups were formed here in 1873 and 1888 respectively. Organized sporting events for men expanded with the first NCAA national championships in 1921. Women, who had only recently gained the right to vote in the United States, were included in the games in 1928. 1952, the Soviet Union sent its first teams to the Olympics. Fierce competition between the USSR and the United States lasted throughout the Cold War, for the next 30 years. In standard Olympic tradition, wars are suspended for the duration to allow all countries to participate in the peace.
Today, favorite events include several sports competitions in the pentathlon (5 sports), heptathlon (7) and decathlon (10). The Athletics Congress (USA) and the International Amateur Athletic Congress determine the sporting rules. The games are reserved for amateurs; professional athletes cannot participate or they are banned.
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