The results of racing events are decided by finishing position (or time, where measured), while the jumps and throws are won by the athlete that achieves the highest or furthest measurement from a series of attempts. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most common types of sports in the world. Athletics is mostly an individual sport, with the exception of relay races and competitions which combine athletes' performances for a team score, such as cross country.
Organized athletics are traced back to the Ancient Olympic Games from 776 BC. The rules and format of the modern events in athletics were defined in Western Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century, and were then spread to other parts of the world. Most modern top level meetings are held under the auspices of World Athletics, the global governing body for the sport of athletics, or its member continental and national federations.
The word athletics is derived from the Ancient Greekἀθλητής (athlētēs, "combatant in public games") from ἆθλον (athlon, "prize") or ἆθλος (athlos, "competition"). Initially, the term described athletic contests in general – i.e. sporting competition based primarily on human physical feats. In the 19th century, the term athletics acquired a more narrow definition in Europe and came to describe sports involving competitive running, walking, jumping and throwing. This definition continues to be prominent in the United Kingdom and the former British Empire. Related words in Germanic and Romance languages also have a similar meaning.
In much of North America, athletics is synonymous with sports in general, maintaining the historical usage of the term. The word "athletics" is rarely used to refer to the sport of athletics in this region. Track and field is preferred, and is used in the United States and Canada to refer to athletics events, including racewalking and marathon running (although cross country running is typically considered a separate sport).
It's from the first edition (1896 Summer Olympics), that Athletics has been considered the "Queen" of the Olympics. Since then there have been a series of competitions organized at world level, than at the continental level. Furthermore, the Athletics is the main sport of nearly all multi-sport events such as Universiade, Mediterranean Games or Pan American Games. The following list refers to the main Athletics competitions that take place in the world.