Athletic events represent sport at its purest and are often the centrepiece of major international sporting games. They are the embodiment of the Olympic motto, Citius, Altuis, Fortius - or Faster, Higher, Stronger - with athletes pushing themselves to the limit against their opponents and the record books.

Athletic events can be split into four main categories: track events, field events, road events and combined events.

Track events are running races that take place on a 400m outdoor track in the main stadium. The sprint races provide instant excitement, but look out for clever tactics and fast finishing in the longer races.

Field events are throwing and jumping competitions that usually take place inside the track. Strength, speed and agility are key, while tactics also come in to play in the jumping events.

Road events are long running and walking races that take place on public roads, although they often finish on the track inside the stadium.


The word athletics comes from the Greek "athlos" meaning "contest". A track running race, known as the "stade", was the first and only event at the first ancient Olympics in 776BC.

Later, more running distances were added, along with the long jump and a pentathlon event which introduced the discus and javelin.

The end of the ancient Olympics in AD393 also saw the end of organised athletics for more than 1,400 years. Running, jumping and throwing competitions continued, however, on an informal basis in most civilised cultures, often as a part of military training.

Interest in the Olympics was revived when archaeologists excavated ancient Olympia towards the end of the 19th century. Baron Pierre de Coubertain founded the International Olympic Committee in Paris in 1894, and the first modern Olympics followed in Athens two years later.

Track and field athletics was a major part of Athens 1896, although women did not compete until the 1928 Amsterdam Games, and then only in five events. The men's programme has varied, but has become relatively standardised at all major games since 1928. Women's events, however, have gradually increased in number to almost match the men's.

The recent addition of women's pole vault, triple jump and 3,000m steeplechase means the only exclusively male event is now the 50km race walk, although the women run over a shorter distance in the sprint hurdles, over lower hurdles in both events, and take part in a seven-event heptathlon rather than a 10-event decathlon.

The International Amateur Athletics Federation was formed in 1912 as a world governing body. IAAF has staged its own World Championships since 1983, allowing prize money from 1982. In 2001, it changed its name to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Athletics has been a part of every Asian Games, starting at New Delhi, India, in 1951.


Track events (classified by distance in metres):

100m, 200m and 400m: Sprint races where the athletes run as fast as they can in their own lane for the entire distance.

800m and 1500m: Middle distance events where athletes can't maintain top speed, so tactics come into play. Athletes are also permitted to run out of lane.

5000m and 10,000m: Long distance events run out of lane, where endurance is vital, in addition to tactics.

110m hurdles (100m for women) and 400m hurdles: Sprint races where the athletes also have to jump over 10 barriers equally spaced down the track. The men have higher hurdles and a slightly longer distance to cover in the shorter event.

3000m steeplechase: An endurance race over hurdles. After an obstacle-free first lap, the competitors tackle five hurdles, including a water-jump, on each successive lap. This is a men's event only at Doha 2006.

4x100m and 4x400m relays: Team sprint races where four athletes race in sequence, passing a baton to the next runner. Dropping the baton results in disqualification. The first team whose final athlete crosses the line with the baton is the winner.

Field events

High jump:

Competitors aim to jump the highest over a bar. They have three chances to clear the bar. If they clear it, then the bar is raised gradually until only the winner remains.

Pole vault:

Similar to the high jump, but competitors are allowed to use a long pole to help propel them over the bar and can therefore clear great heights.

Long jump:

Competitors aim to jump the furthest. They have three chances to run and jump from behind a line into a sandpit.

Triple jump:

Similar to the long jump, but competitors have to take a hop, a skip and a jump at the end of their run up.


Competitors throw a long spear, known as the javelin, as far as possible from behind a line. The javelin must stick into the ground on landing to count.

Shot put:

Competitors throw a heavy metal sphere, known as a shot, as far as possible, using a strictly controlled pushing motion from the shoulder.


Competitors throw a disc as far as possible using a straight arm and a swinging action.


Competitors throw a metal sphere on a chain, known as a hammer, as far as possible using a swinging action.

Road events


A long endurance road race, run over the traditional marathon distance of about 42 kilometres (26.2 miles).

20km race walk:

An endurance road race conducted under strict walking rules; competitors must keep one foot on the ground at all times to prevent running

Combined events


A men's event featuring 10 disciplines. On day one, competitors start with the 100m, followed by the long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m. Day two features the 100m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the final event, the 1500m. Scoring tables are used to give a final points total.


A women's event featuring seven disciplines. On day one, competitors start with the 100m hurdles, followed by the high jump, shot put and 200m. Day two features the long jump, javelin and 800m. Scoring tables are used to give a final points total.

 Athletics in Pakistan

Pakistan has never won any athletic medal in Olympics. Her athletes do not get chance to participate in World Athletic Cup competition due to poor standard. But Pakistan has been a force to be reckoned with in the Asian Games. the SAF Games and the Commonwealth Games. Many Pakistani athletes won medals and even held records for many years in these prestigious competitions. The fifties were the golden era of the Pakistani athletics. The whole world has, made rapid progress in athletics, Pakistan's downfall in this sport has been both surprising and painful. But the more pitiable fact is that Pakistan's participation in the Asian Games and the Asian Athletic Championship has also been a mere formality for a number of years. The Pakistani athletes seldom win any medal in these competitions. Athletics are the "mother" of other sports as well. Without making systematic progress in athletics, Pakistan cannot hope to find her rightful place among the comity of sporting nations of the world.

Pakistan produced very good athletes, who-dominated the Asian athletic scene for a number of years. Some of them created the Asian Games records. which were broken after a lot of effort by the other Asian athletes. The one time 'Fastest man of Asia' Abdul Khaliq belonged to Pakistan. He was seldom beaten in the one hundred and two hundred meters sprints in the Asian Games-athletic events. His record stood for quite sometime. Ghulam Raziq was the greatest high hurdler of Asia. He was included in the ten best hurdlers of his time. Ghulam Raziq had the rare honour of reaching the semi-final of the two successive Olympics at Melbourne (1956) and Rome (1960) in the 110m hurdles race.

Pakistan has also produced stalwarts in other athletic events as well. Sharif Butt had a very good record in sprints. Mubarak Shah performed extraordinarily in the long-distance race (5,000 meters and 10,000 meters races). Jalal was a very good javelin thrower. Nawaz excelled in javelin throwing, lqbal, Malik Noor and Yousaf Malik were outstanding hammer throwers. Muhammad Ramzan won fame in broad jumping. Allah Ditta and Saparas Khan brought glory to Pakistan in pole vaulting.

When the great Pakistani athletes faded in the early sixtees, it was Muhammad Younus who kept Pakistan's flag flying in athletic competition during the Asian Games. This middle distance runner of Pakistan excelled in the 1500 meters races. He was assisted by athletes like Yousaf Malik, Norman Brinkworth and Allah Dad, who won silver or bronze medals to keep Pakistan among the medal winning nations of Asia. After, their retirement, the participation of the Pakistani athletes in the Asian Games has become mere formalities.