Athletics were the core reason the Olympics first began in 1896, and have consequently been contested in every Olympics since. Men have competed in a total of 52 different events over the years, but the same core 24 events have now made up the male athletics program since 1952. Women currently compete in 23 different events, with the 50km race walk being the only male exclusive event.
Every time the Olympics are held, variations are made to the program of events with some sports gaining inclusion, others being modified, and some being dropped completely. For example, at the 2008 Olympics held in Beiijing, BMX was added for both men and women, as was a 10km marathon swim event.
The Olympics arguably bring athletics to the fore, with normal athletic competition not attracting too much of the mainstream media. This is highlighted by the popularity of the athletics finals, usually the hottest ticket in town. Big events including the sprint finals, relays and marathon are highly anticipated every Olympics and some of the world’s biggest stars contest these.
Arguably the premier event of the athletics program is the men’s 100m sprint final, crowning the world’s fastest man. Jamaican Usain Bolt has won the previous 2 Olympic golds and will more than likely start favourite in Rio to become the first man to win the 100m crown back to back to back. Coincidently in the female 100m event, Bolt’s fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has also won the past 2 gold medals and will also look to become the first in her event to win the gold three times straight.
Australia has won a total of 71 Olympic medals across the athletic events, including 20 golds. At the most recent Olympics in London, Sally Pearson secured gold in the women’s 100m hurdles and she will again lead our assault on gold in Rio 2016. We also managed to secure 2 silver medals in London, with Mitchell Watt finishing runner up in the men’s long jump, and Jared Tallent winning silver in the men’s 50km walk.
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