Track & Field at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Posted at 9:08 AM, Mar 10, 2021

The Tokyo Olympics track and field program will comprise 25 running events on the track (20 individual, five relays), 16 field events and two combined events (10-event decathlon, seven-event heptathlon) at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, as well as three race-walking events and two marathon events at or near Sapporo's Odori Park on Hokkaido. It will be contested over a span of 10 consecutive days.

Making its Olympic debut in Tokyo is the mixed 4x400m relay, an event in which each team must include two men and two women.

Here's a list of those 48 events for track and field – known, too, as athletics – contested by both men and women unless otherwise noted:


  • 100m
  • 200m
  • 400m

Athletes use starting blocks and are restricted to lanes – straightaway even start for the 100m, equal to a quarter-length of the track, and staggered starts for the 200m and 400m, half- and full-laps, respectively. 

Middle distance

  • 800m 
  • 1500m
  • Steeplechase

In the 800m, a one-turn stagger keeps athletes in lanes through the first 100m before a break to the inside is permitted. Two laps.

The 1500m, a 3.75-lap race, begins on the oval's backstretch at the 300m waterfall mark.

Steeplechasers, after about a half-lap waterfall start, clear for seven full laps a water pit and four barriers positioned evenly around the oval in direct relation to the pit, typically located inside the track's second turn.

Long distance

  • 5000m
  • 10,000m
  • Marathon
  • 20km walk
  • 50km walk (men only)

The 5000m and 10,000m, often abbreviated as the 5K and 10K, are respectively 12.5 and 25 laps long. Waterfall starts for both.

Marathons, 26.2 miles in distance, and walks, also known as race-walks, both use mass starts and are held outside on road courses.

Walks are designated as such because athletes must keep one foot on the ground at all times.


  • 100m hurdles (women only)
  • 110m hurdles (men only)
  • 400m hurdles

The 100m hurdles and 110m hurdles, colloquially recognized as high hurdles, are 33 and 42 inches tall, respectively. 

The 400m hurdles, occasionally referred to as low hurdles, are 36 inches tall in the men's race and 30 inches tall in the women's race.

Starting blocks are used in all races, as are assigned lanes, staggered in the one-lap 400m hurdles. High hurdles are run on straightaways.

Each race has 10 evenly spaced hurdles, ranging in distance between each from about 9 meters in the high hurdles and 35 meters in the 400m hurdles.



  • High jump
  • Pole vault
  • Long jump
  • Triple jump

All four disciplines involve a running start. Two are horizontal jumps (long and triple) and two are vertical (high jump and pole vault).

High jump's approach surface is a semi-circle known as a "fan." Long, triple and pole vault have 40-meter runways, 3.5 to 4 feet in width, with sandpit landing areas.

Long jump and triple jump differ in take-offs. Athletes in both launch off wooden boards, but in triple a hop-skip-jump succession precedes final liftoff into the sandpit. The first sand indentation is measured for distance in both.

Pole vaulters carry a pole down the runway and jam it into an indented metal "box," fulcruming and bending the fiberglass pole to help launch them into the air where they attempt to clear a crossbar without knocking it off.

In the high jump, athletes utilize a coordinated step routine on approach and take off using one foot to "flop" over a crossbar. Like pole vault, the goal is to clear the bar without knocking it off. Athletes in both land on a mat.


  • Shot put
  • Discus
  • Hammer
  • Javelin

In each of the four disciplines, an object unique in shape and size is distinctly thrown in an effort to attain the farthest distance. All include a marked sector in which the object must land within to be measured.

Discus and hammer throws, due to a shared potential for errant attempts, are typically housed together in a caged area. Spinning techniques power both throws, as is the case in shot put, though the glide is also a putting style.

The circle from which athletes throw the hammer, a metal ball attached to a steel wire with grip, and "put" by hand the shot, a metal ball, are both 7 feet in diameter. Both balls are 16 pounds for men, 8.8 pounds for women.

Shot put has a raised arc of metal at the front rim of its circle, known as a stop or toe board. Discus throwers hurl a 4.4- to 2.2-pound metal disc from an 8.2-foot diameter circle.

The javelin, a spear-like object about 8 feet long and 1.5 pounds in weight, is thrown with one hand in a coordinated run-up approach involving a cross-step to avoid turning back on the throwing area, which is against the rules. A scratch line indicates the release requirement.


  • Decathlon (men only)
  • Heptathlon (women only)

The combined or multi-events amalgamate several different track and field events over two days, using a point system of standardized scoring tables typically based on individual events' world records, to determine in essence the best all-around athlete.

Men compete in the decathlon, a 10-event competition – 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m on the first day; 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500m on the second day.

Women compete in the heptathlon, a seven-event competition – 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m on the first day; long jump, javelin and 800m on the second day.

Events competed in both: long jump, shot put, high jump and javelin. Similar events but different: 100m/400m and 200m; 110m hurdles and 100m hurdles; and 800m and 1500m.


  • 4x100m relay
  • 4x400m relay
  • 4x400m relay, mixed (two men and two women)

Relays involve four athletes on one team passing a baton between individual "legs" in a designated, marked zone. Blocks and staggered starts are used in all.

In the 4x100m, each athlete runs a 100m leg. The baton is passed three times over 400m, a full lap. Athletes are restricted to lanes for the entire race.

Each athlete in the 4x400m runs a full-lap 400m leg, passing the baton three times over 1600m, or about a mile. The leadoff runners stay in lanes for their entire leg. The second leg athletes, upon receiving the baton, keep inside their lanes through the first turn and then are permitted to break toward the inside.

The remainder of the 4x400m is run free of lanes, although judges try and coordinate subsequent baton exchanges in order of the teams' current position statuses.

Making its Olympic debut, the mixed version of the 4x400m includes teams with two men and two women. Each team is free to decide which order of legs is used. The male-female-female-male order was the most used at the 2019 world championships in Doha, Qatar.

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Rules

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Equipment

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Scoring

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Competition format

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Who's qualified for Team USA in Tokyo?

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Venues

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Courses

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Glossary

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Olympic history

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Since Rio