And I don’t mean the American Automobile Association. Or Amateur Athletics Association, for that matter.

With London 2012 looming large on the horizon, I think it’s time to acquaint you with the sports lined up for this year’s Summer Olympic Games. Just so you’ll know what all the fuss is about, when they begin. Along with the saturation coverage you’ll be getting on TV, radio, and Webcast.

My thanks to the good people at, for additional facts and figures.

We’ll start with the trio I’ve dubbed Triple A:
Archery, Artistic Gymnastics, and Athletics.



Archery – the shooting of arrows from a handheld bow – is a practice closely associated with the development of civilization.

It was the favorite sport of the Egyptian pharaohs (kings and queens), during the 18th dynasty (1567-1320 BC).

Some of the earliest recorded archery tournaments were held in China, during the Zhou (Chou) dynasty, of 1027-256 BC.

Archery first appeared at the Olympic Games in 1900. It was contested in 1904, 1908, and 1920. There was an absence of 52 years, before it reappeared in 1972 – from which point it has continued to feature.

The most decorated archer in Olympic history is Belgium’s Hubert Van Innis, who competed in 1900 and 1920, winning a total of six gold and three silver medals.

For Olympic competition, each arrow has a maximum diameter of 9.3mm; most are as small as 5.5mm.
Each arrow must be marked with a competitor’s name, or initials.

Archers often use distinctive colors, to further personalize their arrows.

The bow consists of a hand grip or handle, with curved limbs at each end.

The string of the bow (bowstring) is usually made of high-tech polyethylene fibers, which are stronger than steel.

Fletching is the real or artificial feathers at the back of an arrow, designed to make it fly straight.

The nock is an attachment at the rear end, which holds an arrow in place, on the bowstring.

Each archer has a quiver, or container for holding arrows, usually worn at the waist.

The target they must aim at is 1.22 meters (48 inches) in diameter. At the competition distance of 70 meters (86.4 yards), it looks about as big as a drawing pin or thumbtack, held at arm’s length.
The center ring is 12.2cm in diameter – so it’s not an easy hit.

Individual and team events are held at 70meters, for both men and women.

Artistic Gymnastics

Artistic Gymnastics

Some iconic figures, associated with this one:
Olga Korbut. Nellie Kim. Nadia Comenici. Shannon Miller. Lara Croft.

Okay; maybe not Lara Croft. But the moves are similar. Vaults, somersaults, aerial contortions, and feats of acrobatics.

In Ancient Greece, it was held that balance between mind and body was only achieved when physical exertion was combined with intellectual exercise. The philosophers Plato, Aristotle, and Homer advocated the strengthening qualities of gymnastics.

The term artistic gymnastics was used from the early 1800s, to distinguish free-flowing styles from techniques used in military training.

The event was introduced at the very first Games of the modern Olympiad in Athens, in 1896. Artisitic gymnastics has featured at every edition of the Games, since then.

Initially, it included disciplines such as climbing, club swinging (!), rock lifting (!!), acrobatics, and swimming.

At the 1924 Games in Paris, the men’s apparatus individual and team competitions premiered, laying the foundation of today’s Olympic gymnastics program.

Women were first included at the 1928 Games, in Amsterdam. But it was not until 1952 that a women’s program of seven events was developed. This was reduced to six, at the 1960 Games in Rome, and has remained at that level, till today.

So, at London 2012, you can expect to see the following:

floor exercises men
horizontal bar men
individual all-round men
parallel bars men
pommel horse men
rings men
team competition men
vault men

balance beam women
floor exercises women
individual all-round women
team competition women
uneven bars women
vault women

The still rings (or simply, “rings“) are two parallel rings set 50cm apart, hung from a cable and straps. One is held in each hand, for a series of above ground exercises requiring stillness of the body.

The parallel bars consist of two wooden rails on uprights. They can be adjusted in height, and are used for swinging, vaulting, and balancing exercises in men’s artistic gymnastics.

The uneven or asymmetric bars used in the women’s event have the top bar set 2.4m above the floor, and a lower bar at 1.8 meters. A continuous series of grip changes, releases, and new grasps must be performed, as the competitor twists and turns between them.

The pommel horse is a solid apparatus 115cm high, with two handles (pommels) on top, that the men use to perform moves while holding their bodies above the horse.

The vault (used in men’s and women’s events) is similar to the pommel horse, but has no handles. It is used for a variety of handsprings, done from a running approach.

In the early days, artistic gymnasts at the Games often came from a background in ballet, and would reach their physical peak in their 20s.

At the 1976 Games in Montreal, Nellie Kim and Nadia Commenici recorded perfect scores of 10, at the age of 14. This heralded an era of younger champions, trained specifically in gymnastics from childhood. Often (especially in the former Soviet bloc) by rigorous and controversial methods, some (allegedly) involving drugs, to delay the onset of puberty.

Today, gymnasts must be at least 16 years old, to compete.



Athletics (also known as Track and Field) featured at the ancient Olympic Games. The first event contested there was the “stadium race”, a sprint of about 192 meters. Champions have been recorded from as far back as 776 BC.

The Ancient Games included a wide variety of track and field events, such as foot races, a race in armor, and a pentathlon consisting of the stadium race, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, and wrestiling.

Similar events were held in ancient Greece, at the Isthmian, Nemean, and Pythian Games.

In Europe, local fairs and festivals often featured running, jumping, and throwing events.

The modern format of athletics evolved from the late 19th century, when schools and military colleges began to include sports and exercise as part of their formal education programs. A variety of running, jumping, throwing, walking, and combined events were contested, at a single meeting, or meet. The earliest of these dates back to 1840, in Shropshire, England.

Specialized championships began in the 1880s, in the USA, UK, Europe, and other developed nations.

Athletics has been on the program of the modern Olympiad since it began in 1896. Women’s events appeared for the first time at the 1928 Games, in Amsterdam.

In Los Angeles, in 1932, the men’s program was standardized. Though women were initially excluded from most events, their program today is almost identical to the men’s:

10000m men
100m men
110m hurdles men
1500m men
200m men
20km walk men
3000m steeplechase men
400m men
400m hurdles men
4x100m relay men
4x400m relay men
5000m men
50km walk men
800m men
decathlon men
discus throw men
hammer throw men
high jump men
javelin throw men
long jump men
marathon men
pole vault men
shot put men
triple jump men

10000m women
100m women
100m hurdles women
1500m women
200m women
20km race walk women
3000m steeplechase women
400m women
400m hurdles women
4x100m relay women
4x400m relay women
5000m women
800m women
discus throw women
hammer throw women
heptathlon women
high jump women
javelin throw women
long jump women
marathon women
pole vault women
shot put women
triple jump women

With such a full roster, there has been ample scope for the birth of legends.

Jesse Owens. Edwin Moses. Carl Lewis. Daley Thompson. The list goes on.

If you’re an avid fan, like me (I competed at 100m, 200m, and long jump when I was… well. Younger.), or simply an old cynic looking to see which performances are most likely to be drug-assisted, you’ll no doubt be glued to whatever broadcast medium is nearest to you.

So much for Triple A.

Join me next time, when I’ll be studying The Killer Bs.

Till then.