9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (2023)

The Olympic Games were invented by the ancient Greeks in 776 BCE. The first Games debuted in Olympia, Greece at a sanctuary site for the Greek deities.

A foot race, known as stadion, was the first and only event at the Olympics until 724 BCE. Three more foot races, several combat sports, and equestrian events comprised the ancient Olympic sports.

Most of these sports are still in the Games today in a modified form.

9. Hoplite Race (Hoplitodromos)

Year Introduced: 520 BCE
Still Played Today: No
Special Equipment Used: Hoplite armor: a helmet, shield, and grieves; event took place at a stadion track
Number of Competitors: Unknown, possibly up to 20 like all stadion events

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (1)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

The hoplite race, which was called hoplitodromos by the Greeks, was the fourth and final foot race added to the ancient Olympics. Unlike the other foot races, which were done in the nude, the hoplite race required athletes to wear armor (which could weigh over 50 pounds) consisting of a helmet, shield, and greaves — the greaves were removed in the mid 5th century BCE because they impeded leg movement.

This race tested athlete’s muscular strength and endurance. It typically only required two lengths of the stadion track (about 192 m (629.9 ft)), but at Nemea it was four stadia and at Platea it was 15. Like the other foot races that required more than one stadion, hoplite racers were required to run around a pole known as the kampter at the end of each lap.

8. Pankration

Year Introduced: 648 BCE
Still Played Today: No
Special Equipment Used: None
Number of Competitors: Two in each match; most events had four rounds with sixteen athletes

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (2)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

Pankration was the final combat sport added to the ancient Olympic Games. Of the three combat sports (the other two were wrestling and boxing), pankration was the most dangerous. It was a violent, bare-handed submission sport that had very little restrictions.

This brutality was illustrated by the event’s name, pankratos, which literally means “all of power”, from pan meaning “all” and kratos, which meant “strength, might, power”.

According to Greek mythology, pankratos was invented by the heroes Heracles and Theseus, who used wrestling and boxing methods to defeat their opponents. All boxing and wrestling techniques, as well as kicking, holds, locks, and chokes on the ground were acceptable. The only restricted actions were biting and gouging your opponent’s eyes out.

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Pankration was so dangerous that several athletes died. Although the sport was violent, it was popular for centuries and even crossed over into Roman culture.

7. Four-Horse Chariot Racing (Tethrippon)

Year Introduced: 680 BCE
Still Played Today: No
Special Equipment Used: Chariots and horses; event took place at the Hippodrome
Number of Competitors: Unknown

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (3)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

The four-horse chariot race, called tethrippon by the Greeks, was the first equestrian event added to the Olympic Games in 680 BCE. To accommodate for the new event, the Olympics were expanded from a one-day to a two-day event.

The chariot events took place at the hippodrome, which was a wide, flat, open area where the starting and finishing line was defined by a pole. The track also had a second smaller pole, called the nyssa, which was a difficult turn that caused many accidents.

It is believed that the tethtrippon consisted of 12 laps because the poet Pindar called the event dodekadromon — the laps equaled about 14 km (8.6992 mi). Very little is known about the actual rules of any of the equestrian events, but historians know for sure that competitors were not allowed to swerve in front other racers unless he was way ahead of those behind him.

6. Boxing (Pygmachia)

Year Introduced: 688 BCE
Still Played Today: Yes
Special Equipment Used: Ox hide leather wraps called himantes and oxys
Number of Competitors: Two in each match

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (4)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

Boxing is not only one of the oldest Olympic sports, but it is also one of the oldest contact sports overall.Ancient Greek boxing, which was calledpygmachia, was added to the Games in 688 BCE and the second combat sport. After it was introduced, boxing was present at every ancient Olympiad and was highly popular in Greek culture for over one thousand years.

Unlike today’s boxing, which has more rules to ensure athletes’ safety,pygmachiawas very rough. Initially fighters wore ox hide leather wraps calledhimantesaround their hands, knuckles, and wrists, but the gloves eventually became more lethal. Boxers started using sharp-edged gloves calledoxys, which occasionally led to deaths during matches.

These ancient boxing matches only lasted for one round and the goal was to either knock your opponent unconscious or get them to submit.

5. Pentathlon (Discus Toss, Javelin Throw, Long Jump, Stadion, and Wrestling)

Year Introduced: 708 BCE
Still Played Today: No, but the individual events (discus, javelin, and long jump) still exist and there is the men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon
Special Equipment Used: Discus, javelins, halteres (which were similar to modern dumbbells and used for the long jump), and stadion track
Number of Competitors: Unknown

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9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (5)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

The pentathlon was the first multi-event competition added to the Olympics, which debuted with the separate wrestling event in 708 BCE. It consisted of five events: discus toss, javelin throw, long jump, stadion (foot race), and wrestling — discus, javelin, and long jump were not held as individual events at the early Games.

No one knows the exact order of the events of the pentathlon, but they were all held on the same day and they always ended with wrestling.

It is also unclear how the winner of the pentathlon was chosen, but the foremost theory is that the top athletes selected for the final wrestling tournaments were the winners from the four other events. There is also evidence to support that an overall winner was chosen if they won at any three events.

Pentathletes were considered to be the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing Olympic athletes because they had to be well-rounded to compete in so many different events.

4. Wrestling (Palé)

Year Introduced: 708 BCE
Still Played Today: Yes
Special Equipment Used: None
Number of Competitors: Two in each match

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (6)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

In 708 BCE, two new events were added to the Olympic Games, wrestling (palé) and the pentathlon. Wrestling was the first combat sport added to Games and was considered the safest of the three Greek combat sports (boxing and pankration were added later). Wrestling was also included as one of the five events in the pentathlon.

The Greeks employed two methods of wrestling: upright wrestling (orthe palé), which took place in the sand pit, and ground wrestling, which was done on wet sand (kato palé). There is some disagreement over whether or not ground wrestling took place at the Games. However, there are records that suggest that the athletes started upright then took the match to the ground if a fall was not scored after a sweep or throw.

3. Long Distance Running (Dolichos)

Year Introduced: 720 BCE
Still Played Today: Yes closest equivalent is 5000 m race
Special Equipment Used: None, but event took place in special building called a stadion
Number of Competitors: Up to 20

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (7)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

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The dolichos was the third running event added to the Olympics in 720 BCE. Like the other foot races, the dolichos took place in a stadion. Though the distance of the race varied, it was typically about 18 to 24 laps, which was about 3,465 m (11,368.11 ft) to 4,620 m (15,157.48 ft). Just like in the diaulos race, competitors had to loop around a pole called a kampter at the end of each lap to continue the race.

Since the dolichos was a long distance race, the runners did not exert a lot of effort in the early laps of the race and moved a little faster than walking speed. They only picked up the pace in the last laps and sprinted to the finish. The dolichos wasn’t a main event and was added to pad out the Olympic Games and provide more entertainment for the audience.

2. Double-Stade Foot Race (Diaulos)

Year Introduced: 724 BCE
Still Played Today: Yes as the 400 m race
Special Equipment Used: None, but event took place in special building called a stadion
Number of Competitors: Up to 20

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (8)photo source:Flickr

The diaulos or double-stade foot race was the second event added to Olympic Games in 724 BCE. It was identical to the first Olympic running event stadion, but was twice the length. Athletes would sprint to the end of the stadion track and sprint back to the starting line.

For the diaulos a pole called a kampter was planted in the ground, which athletes needed to loop around to complete the race. Historians are not sure whether or not each competitor had their own kampter or if they had to all loop around the same one.

According to Philostratus (ancient Greek author), who wrote a book about Greek athletics, diaulos runners needed more endurance and had to be built stronger than stadion runners.

1. Running (Stadion)

Year Introduced: 776 BCE
Still Played Today: Yes as the 200 m race
Special Equipment Used: None, but event took place in special building called a stadion
Number of Competitors: Up to 20

9 Oldest Olympic Sports in the World - Oldest.org (9)photo source:Wikimedia Commons

The running race known as stadion or stade is the oldest Olympic Sport in the world. It was the only event at the very first Olympics in 776 BCE and remained the sole event at the Games until 724 BCE.

The length of the race was 600 Greek feet, but this was not a standardized unit so stadions often varied in length. The original stadion in Olympia is about 192 m (629.9 ft).

Stadion was named for the building in took place in, which was also called stadion. This word eventually became stadium in Latin and English and is the reason why we call sports arenas stadiums.

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The stadion race was the most prestigious event in the ancient Olympics, even after other sports were introduced. The winner of the race was considered the victor of the entire Games and each Olympiad was named after the winner.

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FAQs

What were the first 9 sports in the Olympics? ›

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed, and the first Games were planned for 1896 in Athens, the capital of Greece. In Athens, 280 participants from 13 nations competed in 43 events, covering track-and-field, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, shooting, and tennis.

What were the 5 original Olympic sports? ›

The ancient Olympic Games were initially a one-day event until 684 BC, when they were extended to three days. In the 5th century B.C., the Games were extended again to cover five days. The ancient Games included running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration and equestrian events.

What events were in the first Olympics? ›

The inaugural Games of the modern Olympics were attended by as many as 280 athletes, all male, from 12 countries. The athletes competed in 43 events covering athletics (track and field), cycling, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, wrestling, fencing, shooting, and tennis.

What were the first sports? ›

Although it is impossible to know for sure, it is usually considered that wrestling and boxing were the first sports ever played. Competitions using the simple mode of human transport, running, would also have been among the first sports played.

What's the oldest Olympic sport? ›

The running race known as stadion or stade is the oldest Olympic Sport in the world. It was the only event at the very first Olympics in 776 BCE and remained the sole event at the Games until 724 BCE.

What are the 6 new Olympic sports? ›

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The tournament will start with opening-round pool play before moving into the knockout stage to determine the champion.
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There are seven new events at the Olympic Winter Games programme with the inclusion of the women's monobob, men's and women's freestyle skiing Big Air events, and mixed team events in short track, ski jumping, snowboard cross and freestyle skiing aerials all set to make their exciting debuts at the Games!

Why are there 5 Olympic rings instead of 7? ›

The rings symbolise the union of the five continents, the participation of the athletes at these Games and express the activity of the Olympic movement. The five-coloured rings represent the five inhabited continents of the world. These are- Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

How many ancient Olympic Games were there? ›

5 - Events at the ancient Olympics

For the first 12 ancient Olympics, the only event was a short footrace of about 190m - or one length of the stadium - called a 'stade'. Eventually, the Games expanded from one day to five, as a total of 18 events were added to the programme.

Which country has never hosted Olympic? ›

New Zealand, which has a population of nearly 4.5 million, has never hosted the Olympics, but neighboring Australia has twice staged the Summer Games, most recently at Sydney in 2000. A few countries with small populations such as Norway and Greece have hosted the games recently, but none outside Europe.

How many Olympic sports are there? ›

Frequently Asked Questions. How many sports in total feature in the Olympics? A total of 40 sports are in the Olympics, including 32 in the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics and eight in Milano Cortina 2026, the next Winter Olympics.

Which of the 4 major sports is the oldest? ›

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What is the number 1 hardest sport? ›

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Boxing8.631
Ice Hockey7.252
Football5.383
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What is humanity's oldest sport? ›

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Which sports and disciplines have been chosen for inclusion in the programme of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games? Skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and breaking are the four additional sports proposed by the Paris 2024 Organising Committee.

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The 15 Winter Olympic sports in 2022 are bobsled, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, short track speed skating, curling, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined.

Which sport is removed from the 2024 Olympics? ›

Karate and Baseball drops out.

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According to the World Sports Encyclopaedia (2003), there are 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games.

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The choice for the IOC members came down to two authoritarian governments that did not require any public vote, and also had few constraints on spending: Beijing and Almaty.

Which Colour is not used in Olympic flag? ›

There is no pink colour.

Why are the Olympic rings white? ›

In fact, when Pierre de Coubertin created the Rings in 1913, the five colours combined with the white background represented the colours of the flags of all nations at that time, without exception.

What continents are missing Olympic rings? ›

Since there is no representation under the flag of Antarctica, it is not included in the Olympic symbol or rings.

What are 10 facts about the Olympics? ›

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What was the first game in ancient Olympics? ›

The ancient Olympic Games began in the year 776 BC, when Koroibos, a cook from the nearby city of Elis, won the stadion race, a foot race 600 feet long.

How old are the Olympic Games? ›

The history of the Games goes back around 3,000 years, to the Peloponnese in Ancient Greece. Sports contests organised at Olympia took place every four years and acquired the name Olympic Games. We do not know exactly when they started, but the date of 776 BC is often cited in written sources.

Which country boycotted the Olympics? ›

There is no country that has ignored the Olympic Charter's mandate to keep politics out of sports more than China. China boycotted the Summer Olympics for almost three decades from 1952 to 1980 over questions of Taiwan's participation.

Has any country been to every Olympics? ›

Only five countries have participated in every Summer Olympic Games: Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece, and Switzerland. Great Britain is the only country to have won a gold medal at every edition of the Games.

Can India host Olympics? ›

The city of Mumbai on Saturday was announced as the host of the 2023 International Olympic Committee's (IOC) session after successfully bidding for it in the 139th IOC session being held in Beijing alongside the ongoing Winter Olympics.

Which sport is known as king of sports? ›

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Is chess an Olympic sport? ›

What is the 2nd oldest sport in America? ›

First held in 1877, the canine contest is second only to another sports gala that took off in the 19th century, the Kentucky Derby.

What is the most skillful sport? ›

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What is the most stressful sport? ›

Having got the honourable mentions out of the way, here's a countdown of the 10 most exhausting sports:
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What is the most mental sport? ›

Gymnastics

Gymnastics is one of the most physical and most mentally challenging sports in the world. Many people don't realise the amount of strength that it takes to tumble, twist, and vault and also many people don't realise the constant pressure of competing against yourself.

What are the Olympic Games in chronological order? ›

Dates and Locations of the Modern Olympics
  • Athens, Greece. April 6-15, 1896.
  • Paris, France. May 20-October 28, 1900.
  • St. Louis, Missouri, USA. ...
  • London, England. April 27-October 31, 1908.
  • Stockholm, Sweden. May 5-July 22, 1912.
  • Berlin, Germany. CANCELLED.
  • Antwerp, Belgium. April 20-September 12, 1920.
  • Paris, France.

What were the original sports in the Winter Olympics? ›

The first Winter Olympic Games were held in the French Alps in Chamonix, France in 1924. The original six sports—divided into 14 different events—included ski jump, bobsled, curling, ice hockey, skiing, and skating. Today, it has become a major international, multi-sport event taking place every 4 years.

What became an Olympic sport in 1900? ›

Archery, football (soccer), rowing, and equestrian events were among those introduced at the 1900 Games. Women, competing in sailing, lawn tennis, and golf, participated in the Olympics for the first time even though women's events were not officially approved by the IOC.

How many Olympic Games are there in total? ›

There have been 29 Summer Olympic Games held in 23 cities, and 24 Winter Olympic Games held in 21 cities.

How many Olympic Games are there list? ›

A total of 40 sports are in the Olympics, including 32 in the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics and eight in Milano Cortina 2026, the next Winter Olympics. How many sports are in the Summer Olympics?

What is the oldest winter sport? ›

Actually, figure skating is the oldest Winter Games sport dating back to its first Olympics in the 1908 and 1920 Summer Olympics, the Olympics reports.

What is the oldest winter sport in the Olympics? ›

Figure skating is the oldest winter sport in Olympic history, initially being added to the Summer Olympic Games in 1908 until its transition to the inaugural Winter Olympics In 1924. Figure skating Winter Olympic events include men's singles, ladies' singles, pairs, mixed team event and ice dancing.

What was the only state to turn down the Olympics? ›

Colorado is the only state in history to turn down the Olympics - In 1976 the Winter Olympics were planned to be held in Denver. Voters chose not to host the Olympics because of the cost, pollution and population boom it would have on the state of Colorado, and the city of Denver.

What sports were invented in the 1920s? ›

Professional Sports: Boxing and baseball were the first professional sports. Professional football began during the 1920s.

What sport is no longer in the Olympics? ›

Since the first modern Games in 1896, 10 sports have disappeared completely from the Olympic schedule. These are croquet, cricket, Jeu de Paume, pelota, polo, roque, rackets, tug-of-war, lacrosse, and motor boating.

What sport was popular in the Gilded Age? ›

Overall the Gilded Age saw the rise of what some people have called “sports-mania.” Not only baseball but also boxing (really popular throughout 19th century,) college football, basketball was invented, and other sporting activities such as croquet, polo, tennis, golf, swimming and bicycling.

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