Athletics Track Events in the 2012 London Summer Olympics

Track events are a small part of what most people think of as "track and field" in the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games and fall into one of the biggest Olympic categories, athletics. Besides track races, under the umbrella of athletics are jumping events, throwing events, and the decathlon (heptathlon for women), and road events.

Every Olympic Games — since the first games in 776 BC and the first modern Olympics in 1896 — has featured athletics events. Women did not begin competing in track events until the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games.

The running, or track, events take place on the 400-meter oval track in Olympic Stadium. The jumping and throwing events take place inside and outside the track's oval area. Multiple events within the athletics category might be going on at the same time.

The athletes compete in 12 different track races: 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, 100-meter hurdles (men) or 110-meter hurdles (women), 400-meter hurdles, 3,000-meter steeplechase, 4 x 100-meter relay, and 4 x 400-meter relay.

Men's Race Preliminaries Round 1 Semi-Finals Finals
100 meters Aug. 4 Aug. 4 Aug. 5 Aug. 5
200 meters Aug. 7 Aug. 8 Aug. 9
400 meters Aug. 4 Aug. 5 Aug. 6
800 meters Aug. 6 Aug. 7 Aug. 9
1,500 meters Aug. 3 Aug. 5 Aug. 7
5,000 meters Aug. 8 Aug. 11
10,000 meters Aug. 4
110-meter hurdles Aug. 7 Aug. 8 Aug. 8
400-meter hurdles Aug. 3 Aug. 4 Aug. 6
3,000-meter steeplechase Aug. 3 Aug. 5
4 x 100-meter relay Aug. 10 Aug. 11
4 x 400-meter relay Aug. 9 Aug. 10
Women's Race Preliminaries Round 1 Semi-Finals Finals
100 meters Aug. 3 Aug. 3 Aug. 4 Aug. 4
200 meters Aug. 6 Aug. 7 Aug. 8
400 meters Aug. 3 Aug. 4 Aug. 5
800 meters Aug. 8 Aug. 9 Aug. 11
1,500 meters Aug. 6 Aug. 8 Aug. 10
5,000 meters Aug. 7 Aug. 10
10,000 meters Aug. 3
100-meter hurdles Aug. 6 Aug. 7 Aug. 7
400-meter hurdles Aug. 5 Aug. 6 Aug. 8
3,000-meter steeplechase Aug. 4 Aug. 6
4 x 100-meter relay Aug. 9 Aug. 10
4 x 400-meter relay Aug. 10 Aug. 11

Most of the individual and team races begin with heats; the fastest athletes go on to the semi-finals and then the finals.

Three athletes from each country can enter the individual track races and one team per country can enter the relays. Track events are divided into sprints, middle distance events, long-distance events, obstacle races, and relays.

Races that are less than 400 meters are considered sprints.

In addition to running faster than everyone else, athletes must avoid penalties for false starts or dropped batons and illegal changeovers in the relays. A false start, much as the name implies, is when a runner starts too early — either before the starting gun or within .10 seconds of the gun firing.

For more information about track events, check out the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport's governing body.

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