From the 1940s to the 1970s


Wyomi Tyus - 1968


1940  The first televised athletics meeting outside the Olympics takes place at Madison Square Garden, New York.

1942  At the California Relays in Modesto, Cornelius Warmerdam (USA) sets the final bamboo pole vault world record, 4.77m. The mark stood as a world record until 1957.

1942  Distance runner Gunder Hägg (SWE) sets 10 world records in 81 days across the 1500m, Mile, 2000m, 3000m, Two Miles, Three Miles and 5000m.

1946  David George Brownlow Cecil, Lord Burghley (GBR) – later Marquess of Exeter – is elected IAAF President and the IAAF Headquarters move from Stockholm to London.

1947  At the US Championships in Milwaukee, Herb McKenley (JAM) clocks the first sub-46 time for 400m with world record 45.9.

1947  The USSR become members of the IAAF.

1948  Starting blocks are seen for the first time at an Olympic Games. One of the athletes using them in London is Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED), who wins gold at 100m, 80m hurdles, 200m and 4x100m. In total, she competes 11 times across eight days, winning every time. Jamaica makes its debut in the Olympic Games and 400m runner Arthur Wint (JAM) made history as his country’s first gold medallist.

1949  In the Swedish city of Gävle, Gaston Reiff (BEL) becomes the first man to run 3000m in less than eight minutes with a run of 7:58.8.

1950  The Association of Track & Field Statisticians (ATFS) is formed in Brussels during the European Athletics Championships, with the aim of “documenting the present and recovering the past, in order to commit to future memory the efforts of thousands of athletes, men and women, who have given lustre to the sport all over the World.”

1951  The first editions of the Pan-American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Asian Games in New Delhi, India, are staged.

1951  Parry O’Brien (USA) revolutionises shot-putting with a style in which he faces the back of the circle then rotates his right foot through 180° before releasing the shot. His technique quickly becomes known as the ‘O'Brien Glide.’ In 1953, he becomes the first man to throw 18.00m.

1952 An unprecedented triple Olympic long-distance gold by Emil Zatopek (TCH) at the Olympic Games in Herlsinki, winning the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon. Adhemar da Silva (BRA) wins Brazil’s first ever Olympic athletics gold medal when he takes the triple jump title with a world record 16.22m. He retained his title four years later in Melbourne.

1953  In Pasadena, the first official world javelin record is set with an aerodynamic, hollow metal implement when Franklin (Bud) Held (USA) reaches 80.41m, the first man to throw over 80 metres. The model had been designed by his brother Dick Held.

1954  Headlines are made worldwide when one mile is run in less than four minutes by Roger Bannister (GBR), who clocks  a world record 3:59.4 at Iffley Road, Oxford. He is paced by compatriots Chris Brasher and then Chris Chataway. Bannister passed 1500m in an unratified world best of 3:43.0.

1954  The women’s one mile is run in less than five minutes for the first time by 21-year-old Diane Leather (GBR), who clocks 4:59.6 in Birmingham, England.

1954  Lazaro Chepkwony and Nyandika Maiyoro become the first Kenyan distance runners to achieve international success with their front-running efforts at the AAA Championships at White City Stadium in London.

1954  Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna (NGR) becomes the first black African to win a major championship title with his high jump gold at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. His winning height of 2.03 is a Commonwealth record.

1954  An epic 5000m clash between Chris Chataway (GBR) and Vladimir Kuts (URS) in London sees Kuts pass three miles in a world record, but then Chataway passes him to win the race and break Kuts’s existing world mark with 13:51.6. Fifteen million people around the world watch the race live on television via a Eurovision link.

1956  Shot putter Parry O’Brien (USA) extends his win streak to 116 contests across five years.

1956  Charles Dumas (USA) become the first man to go over seven foot (2.14m) when the high jumper clears that height at the US Olympic Trials.

1956  Treble sprint golds in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m are achieved by Bobby Joe Morrow (USA) and Betty Cuthbert (AUS) at the Melbourne Olympic Games.

1958  Iolanda Balas (ROU) sets five world records, culminating in the first ever womens high jump of more than six feet (1.83m).

1960  The IAAF standardise the length of an outdoor running track to be 400m or 440 yards.

1960  The number of competitors in athletics at the Olympic Games exceeds 1000 for the first time in Rome, where electronic results boards are also introduced. Herb Elliott (AUS) wins the 1500m in a world record 3:35.6, winning by almost three seconds. Abebe Bikila runs barefoot to win Ethiopia’s first ever athletics gold, with a marathon world best performance of 2:15:16.2.  Wilma Rudolph (USA) wins the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, the first American female athlete to win three gold medals at a single Games.

1961  The first IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships final – then called the Lugano Trophy – is staged in Lugano, Switzerland.

1962  The synthetic running track is invented when Theodore Buchholtz, George M. Rambosek and Richard G. Drew file a patent for  a ‘Paving Material and Paving Surfacing’.

1964  At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, automatic timing is used officially for the first time. Bob Hayes (USA) equals the 100m world record with 10.0 (10.06) and Abebe Bikila (ETH) again wins the marathon, this time by a margin of more than four minutes. Mary Rand (GBR) leaps a world record 6.76m to win the long jump.

1965  The First African Games are staged in Brazzaville, Congo, with 18 men’s and six women’s events.

1965  The first European Cup competitions – known then as the Bruno Zauli Cup – in honour of the late President of the IAAF European Committee who had the idea for the contest – are staged in Stuttgart (men) and Kassel (women). Both trophies are won by the USSR.

1966  The first European Indoor Games are staged in Dortmund and feature world indoor best performances in both long jumps by the USSR’s Igor Ter-Ovanesyan and Tatyana Shchelkanova.

1967  The first Central American and Caribbean Championships in Athletics are staged in Mexico, with Cuba topping the medal table.

1967  The moment a Boston Marathon official tries in vain to stop Kathrine Switzer (USA) from competing is captured by a photographer, and the resulting publicity leads to a greater acceptance that women should compete in long-distance running events.

1967  High jumper Iolanda Balas (ROU) retires after having completed a record win streak of 154 contests between1957-1967 before losing in her final competition at the Romanian International Championships in Bucharest.

1968  Jim Hines (USA) secures his place in history when he clocks the first legal sub-10 seconds 100m in the semi-finals of the US Championships in Sacramento.

1968  The IAAF amends its constitution to allow continental Area Associations to be formed.

1968  Twenty-five world records are set at the high altitude of the Mexico City Olympic Games, including an astonishing long jump mark of 8.90m by Bob Beamon (USA). Discus thrower Al Oerter (USA) becomes the first athlete to win at four successive Olympic Games. His compatriot Dick Fosbury revolutionises high jumping with his back-to-the-bar Fosbury Flop, winning with an Olympic record 2.24m. An all-weather synthetic track is used for the first time at a Games and Naftali Temu (KEN) becomes his county’s first Olympic champion when winning the 10,000m.

1969  The IOC agrees to stage 1500m, 100m Hurdles and 4x400m for women at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

1969  The first in-competition doping control tests are carried out, with the Dutch decathlete Eduard de Noorlander disqualified after testing positive for amphetamines at the 1969 European Championships in Athens

1969  Foundation of the Oceania Amateur Athletic Association.

1970  The first official European Indoor Championships and European Junior (now U20) Championships are staged at Vienna and Paris respectively.

1970  The IAAF’s European Committee is replaced by an autonomous European Athletic Association, later renamed European Athletics.

1970  The first New York City Marathon is staged, comprising od several laps around Central Park.

1971  A demonstration race walk event for women is staged in Helsinki at the time of the European Athletics Championships.

1971  The International Cross Country Union votes to transfer the organisation of their annual championships to the IAAF from 1973.

1972  Aleksandr Baryshnikov breaks the USSR shot put record using the rotational technique devised by his coach Viktor Alexeyev.

1972  IAAF Medical Committee officially formed.

1972  For the first time in Olympic Games athletics, more than 100 nations compete in Munich. Home star Ulrike Meyfarth (FRG), a 16-year-old schoolgirl, wins the high jump and equals the world record of 1.92m. World records are set in all three hurdles events by Rod Milburn (USA, 110m hurdles), John Akii-bua (UGA, 400m hurdles) and Annelie Ehrhardt (GDR, 100m hurdles). 

1972  Introduction of optical distance measuring equipment, using an electronic tachometer and prismatic reflectors, to enables quick and accurate computation of the distances in throwing events.

1973  The first World Cross Country Championships are staged at Waregem, Belgium, with 21 countries and 285 athletes. The three inaugural champions are: Pekka Päivärinta (FIN), Jim Brown (SCO) and Paola Cacchi (ITA).

1973  The Confederation of African Athletics and North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association are both founded.

1973  Clearing 2.30m in Munich, Dwight Stones (USA) becomes the first high jumper to set a world record using the Fosbury Flop style.

1973  The First Asian Championships are staged at Marikina, Philippines, where Japan win more than twice as many medals as the next best country.

1973  An Informal international championship marathon race for women staged in Waldniel, West Germany, is won in 2:59:25 by Christa Vahlensieck (FRG).

1974  The constitution of the Asian Amateur Athletic Association is presented and accepted at the IAAF Congress in Rome, where IAAF membership rises to 150 with the admission of Bermuda, Botswana, Burundi, Montserrat, Rwanda and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

1974  The IAAF Council accepts 3000m and 400m Hurdles as standard events for women.

1974  At the Janusz Kusociński Memorial meeting in Warsaw, Irena Szewińska (POL) becomes the first woman to run 400m in less than 50 seconds when she is timed at 49.9.

1975  Anabolic steroids are included on the IOC’s list of banned substances. The IAAF Introduce suspensions for doping offenders.

1975  During the Gothenburg Games, John Walker (NZL) becomes the first man to run one mile in less than 3:50.00, clocking 3:49.4 with halves of 1:55.1 and 1:54.3.

1976  The IAAF Development Aid Programme begins with an annual budget of $25,000, to support and develop athletics, particularly in developing countries.

1976  Adriaan Paulen (NED) is elected as the third IAAF President.

1976  The IAAF delete imperial events other than the mile from the world record list and agree to accept only automatic timing for sprint world records.

1976  The Montreal Olympic Games sees Alberto Juantorena (CUB) win both the 400m and 800m, the latter in a world record 1:43.5. In his first international meeting, Ed Moses (USA) wins the 400m hurdles title in a world record 47.63. Lasse Viren (FIN) successfully defends both his 5000m and 10,000m titles while Viktor Saneyev (URS) wins his third successive triple jump gold medal. Irina Szewinska (POL) wins the 400m title in a world record 49.28.

1976  The first IAAF World Championships competition outside the Olympic Games, which were the de facto world championships until 1983,  is staged in Malmö, Sweden, with the 50Km walk for men as the event had been dropped from the athletics programme of the Olympic Games.

1977  In West Berlin, straddle jumper Rosemarie Ackermann (GDR) becomes the first woman to high jump 2.00m, 65 years after George Horine became the first man.

1977  The first IAAF World Cup is staged in Düsseldorf, and a massive success with huge crowds on each of the three days. The GDR and Europe teams win the men’s and women’s competitions, respectively.

1978  The last high jump world record with the straddle technique is set by Ukraine’s Vladimir Yashchenko with 2.34 in Tbilisi, although he had earlier in the year jumped 2.35m indoors when winning the European indoor title in Milan.

1978  The IAAF Congress approves a proposal to stage the inaugural World Championships in 1983 and decides to impose a minimum suspension of 18 months for doping cases, with permanent ineligibility for a second offence.

1978  The first official heptathlon competition is staged in Birmingham, Great Britain and the IAAF Congress agrees to replace the pentathlon with that event from 1981.

1978  The IAAF series of ‘Golden Events’ begins with the Golden Mile in Tokyo, which is won by Steve Ovett (GBR).

1978  The Chinese Athletic Association become members of the IAAF.

1979  The first African Championships are staged in Dakar, Senegal.

1979  Sebastian Coe (GBR) – now World Athletics President – sets three world records in 41 days, starting with a giant leap forward in the 800m, improving the mark from 1:43.44 to 1:42.33.