- Organised athletics competitions are closely associated with the Olympic Games, which are generally thought to have begun in the 8th century BC when running races were performed naked, and in full armour, and early forms of long jump and throwing events, such as discus and javelin, were contested.
- Many Irish historians claim that when the first Ancient Olympics Games were held, the annual Tailteann Games, which included running races and stone throwing, had already been going on for more than a thousand years.
- In the Middle Ages, precursors to the modern shot put and hammer events were held among soldiers around Europe, while the modern pole vault is thought to be adapted from a contest called Fierleppen, or far leaping, held in waterlogged parts of the Netherlands and northern Germany where using a pole to jump over rivers was a useful way to get around.
- Most of the current athletics events were formalised at the rebirth of the Olympic Games in Athens 1896, where 12 athletics events were contested, all for male competitors. The first women's athletics events were held in Paris 1900.
Athletics at Baku 2015
- The Baku 2015 European Games will see 20 events each for men and women over the course of two days.
- The majority of these are track events, where the aim is to run the fastest around a 400m, nine-lane looped track over distances of: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay. There are also three track events where running is combined with leaping over hurdles: the men’s 110m hurdles or women’s 100m hurdles, the 400m hurdles and the 3000m steeplechase.
- There are eight field events: high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, hammer and javelin. Winners of field events are those that have jumped or vaulted highest or furthest, or thrown furthest.
- Athletics at the Baku 2015 European Games is a team event, with male and female athletes all representing their NOCs together in the European Athletics Team Championships Third League.
- There are 14 teams competing in athletics at Baku 2015: 13 individual NOCs - Albania, Andorra, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Georgia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Slovakia; and a combined team called the Athletic Association of Small States of Europe (AASSE) containing athletes from Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino.
- Each event will feature no more than one competitor from each of the 14 teams, with 14 points awarded to the team of the athlete who finishes first, 13 to second, 12 to third, and so on.
- The team with the most points at the end of the second day will win gold, and the top four teams will win promotion to the European Athletics Team Championships Second League.
- Austria, Slovakia and Israel are expected to compete for gold, with Moldova and Azerbaijan in with a chance of a medal. Azerbaijan finished fifth in last year’s Third League and will be aiming to go at least one better in Baku.
- Individual athletes can aim for national, European or world records, or to gain qualification for next year’s Rio Olympic Games if they meet entry standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).