Cleave Books
The Olympic Games Story

The Ancient Games
The original games were held at Olympia, in Greece, and took place every 4 years.
Exactly when they started is not known, but the first written records date from 776BC, and the games continued until they were banned by a decree of the Roman Emperor Theodore I, "the Great", in 393AD So the last games held were in 389AD, which meant the games had been held 293 times (at least). The actual events in the games varied from time to time, but mainly were to do with running, wrestling, boxing and chariot racing. In those games there was interest only in who won, and the winner was awarded an olive wreath. Women were not admitted to the games, either as competitors or spectators.
Ernst Curtius, a German archaeologist, did a lot of excavation work at Olympia and, presumably inspired by that, in 1852 suggested that the Olympic Games should be revived. This idea was well-received by many and was finally taken up by Baron Pierre de Courbertin and, at his instigation, in Paris on 23 June 1894, a committee agreed to re-establish the Olympic Games, with a first meeting to be held at Athens in 1896 and every 4 years thereafter. Apart from the war years when no games were held, this has been kept up. In the ancient games, wars were suspended in order to allow the games to continue.

The early games of the modern Olympics were of varied quality and success, with many highlights and low points. There were several calls for the games to be discontinued at various times but they always managed to keep going and, once they were re-established in 1948 (after a 12-year break), their future seemed assured. However, since that time they have become much bigger, very much more costly to stage, the subject of many scandals, and often the target of political action (in the form of boycotts and terrorism) so that it is not inconceivable that the future might see them discontinued, or at least modified in some way.

The standard of record-keeping was very variable (from non-existent to good) for the early years of the modern Olympics (1896 to 1932) and only started being consistently good from the 1936 (Berlin) Olympics onwards. The very many gaps in the official records have been made good over the years by the joint efforts of several enthusiasts around the world who collectively form the International Society of Olympic Historians. However, variations in reported results can often be found in different books. This is especially true of timings. In the earlier games only the time of the winner was given; places were recorded only as being so much distance behind the winner. Estimates are usually made of what this must have meant as a time difference so as to credit a time to the 2nd and 3rd places. There are also a few variations in details of names, particularly in first names and in the English spelling of foreign names.

Although electric timing was first used in the 1912 (Stockholm) Olympics, it was not used to give the official times until the 1968 (Mexico City) Games. Many accounts give both the official times and the 'electric' times and it is interesting to note that the official one is always slightly better.

Though there had been women's events before 1928 in sports such as tennis, golf, swimming and fencing, there were no events for track and field athletes until 1928 when the 100 metres, 800 metres, High Jump and Discus were introduced for individuals, and a 4 x 100 metres relay for teams. Unfortunately, several competitors in the 800 metres race collapsed at the end (many had not trained for that distance) and this started a fierce controversy. There were many "experts" who said that women were not capable of running more than 200 metres, and there were many men of influence who wanted the games to be all male, as the ancient games had been in Greece. So the 800 metres was discontinued, and not re-introduced until 1960. The 100 metres was the only track event for women until 1948 when the 200 metres was put in. Currently the prediction is "confidently" being made that women will be beating men in the marathon before 2030!
The question of whether or not some women athletes actually were female has come up from time to time. There was a period during the 50's and 60's when the true sex of some women from the USSR and Middle European countries was queried, particularly those taking part in field events. There was no direct proof either way, but sex-testing was introduced in 1968 and some previously well-known 'women' did not attend any more. One actual case of mis-representation took 48 years to come to light when the winner of the 1932 Women's 100 metres was declared to be a male on her death in 1980.

The following list gives the (individual) women's track and field events and the year in which they were first held.
100 metres1928
200 metres1948
400 metres1964
800 metres1928 but then discontinued until 1960
1500 metres1972
3000 metres1984 but replaced by 5000 metres in 1996
5000 metres1996
10000 metres1988
High Jump1928
Long Jump1948
In the 1996 (Atlanta) Olympics, the Track and Field events for the Women were exactly the same as for the Men except that there were no Women's events in the
3000 m Steeplechase
Pole Vault
Hammer Throw
50 km Walk