The varied Olympic athletic events all possess the common theme of being competitions of pure physical ability. These events use simple equipment and very little of it. Two thousand athletes will be competing in 26 sports, including Athletics, at the Olympic Stadium at the London 2012 Olympics. Greece hosted many of these same competitions at the ancient games in 776 B.C., elevating winners to God-like status.
Modern day Olympic athletics encompasses a wide variety of events on the track and field that involve running, jumping, throwing or some combination of the three. Perhaps one of the only differences between the modern day Shot Put competitions and those that occurred in ancient Greece is that women and Paralympic athletes are now extremely competitive at heaving the immense iron ball to take a win for their country. Weighing 16 pounds for the men and 8.8 pounds for the women, the shot put will be one of the most impressive shows of raw physical strength at the London 2012 Olympics.
Observers will find it hard to miss the ancient ties to battle and hunting when watching the Javelin Throw. Looking for distance and not accuracy, a relatively short runway precedes the throw that launches a sharp-tipped javelin, only weighing about 28 ounces, soaring through the air. Uwe Hohn accomplished a throw just over 341 feet at the 1984 Olympics. Only three competitors from each country have the chance to win this event.
In very simple terms, the Olympic High Jump amounts to leaping off one foot to clear a bar set high in the air just about any way possible and have the bar remain in place. In the past, contestants have tried all types of combinations of feet or head first and body facing up or down. The common method utilized today is body up, feet last as introduced by Dick Fosbury in the 1960's who brought home America's twelfth gold medal in the High Jump. Disqualification occurs when a jumper has knocked the bar off three times.
Competitors in the Long Jump have three attempts to land the longest "mark", or distance, from the foul line. This track event requires the jumper to have both speed for the approach and strength for the jump, making them extremely competitive at sprinting events as well. Interestingly, part of the success of the jump relies on nature. Wind speed is measured during the competition and in the event that it becomes too strong, the jump will not be validated as was the case with Carl Lewis who jumped just over 29 feet and was both witnessed and documented and then promptly disqualified.
The Olympic motto of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" meaning Faster, Higher, Stronger is represented best by the tradition steeped Track and Field events. Body against body, without the advantage of technology, teams or tools, Athletics is the embodiment of the Ancient Olympic Games of Greece. Men and women of all colors, races and beliefs come together in peace to fight for prestige, respect and the glory that accompanies being the best of the best.