Track and field athletics dominated the ancient Greek athletic festivals, and were also popular in Rome, but declined in the Middle Ages. In England they were revived sporadically between the 12th and 19th cent.; the first college meet occurred in 1864 between Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Track and field athletics in the United States dates from the 1860s. The Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America, the nation's first national athletic group, held the first collegiate races in 1873, and in 1888 the Amateur Athletic Union (which governed the sport for nearly a century) held its first championships. The Athletics Congress now regulates the sport in the United States; the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) sanctions international competition. Track and field has been the centerpiece of the summer Olympic games since their revival in 1896. International professional running, initiated in the 1970s, has had limited success.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.