How did athletics begin?
If we go back far enough, athletics probably began with religion. Primitive men worshipped their gods by performing certain dances. These dances imitated the actions of fighting and hunting. Later on, these dances were performed simply for the pleasure they gave—and they were actually a form of athletics.
The Egyptians had some form of athletic sports about four thousand years ago. But athletics, as we know it really, began with the Greeks. The first recorded Olympic games of the Greeks took place in the year 776 b.c.
Today, we imagine that sports activities play an important part in our lives. But it cannot compare to how important athletics were to the ancient Greeks. Every boy was trained in running, jumping, and wrestling, while he was still at school. A man was supposed to be good at athletics until he was well past middle age.
The ideal of the Greeks was to have a sound mind in a healthy body. So they didn't admire men who were just athletes, nor men who were just brilliant but couldn't participate in sports. But they also had professional athletics, especially in boxing and wrestling.
The Greeks had many athletic festivals, but the oldest and most important were the Olympic games. Only young men of pure Greek descent who had undergone ten months' training could compete. At first, the games were just contests in running and jumping. But later on, they added wrestling, boxing, discus and javelin throwing, and chariot races.