Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

A multi-sport event is an organized sporting event, often held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports among organized teams of athletes from (mostly) nation-states. The first major, modern, multi-sport event of international significance was the Olympic Games, first held in modern times in 1896 in Athens, Greece, and inspired by the Ancient Olympic Games, one of a number of such events held in antiquity. Most modern multi-sport events have the same basic structure. Games are held over the course of several days in and around a "host city", which changes for each competition. Countries send national teams to each competition, consisting of individual athletes and teams that compete in a wide variety of sports. Athletes or teams are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals for first, second and third place respectively. Each game is generally held every four years, though some are annual competitions.


The Ancient Olympic Games, first held in 776 BC, was the precursor to the Modern Olympic Games, although its first edition only featured a footrace and the number of sporting competitions expanded at later editions.

There were several other "games" held in Europe in the classical era:

Other multi-sport festivals emerged in the Middle Ages in Europe, including the Cotswold Olimpick Games in England in the 1600s, the Highland Games in Scotland, and the Olympiade de la République in France in the 1800s.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, athletes at multi-sport events were almost exclusively male. As international women's sport began to develop, events such as the Women's World Games and Olympics of Grace were held to allow women to engage in sport on the international stage. Though short-lived, events such as these led to greater inclusion of women at multi-sport events over the course of the 20th century.[1]

Although the modern tradition commemorates the 1921 revolution, the Naadam festival in Mongolia is a continuation of ancient sporting practises amongst Mongolians.[2] The three events of wrestling, horse racing and archery are thought to date back centuries and represent the three most important pursuits of a strong man in nomadic society.[3] Alongside these sporting events there are other cultural activities such as dances and parades.


Since the establishment of the Olympics, most serial multi-sport events have been organized for specific audiences and participating countries or communities. These affiliations include:

Historic events

Olympic Games

Main article: Olympic Games

The first modern multi-sport event organised were the Olympic Games, organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (est. 1894) for the first time in 1896 in Athens, Greece. After some celebrations (1900, 1904), the Olympics became very popular nowadays. The number of sports, initially only a few, is still growing.

Paralympic Games

Main article: Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games is the largest multi-sport event involving athletes with physical disabilities and is organized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Arranged for the first time in 1960 in Rome, Italy. The number of sports, initially only a few, is still growing.

Special Olympics

Main article: Special Olympics World Games

The first Special Olympics International Summer Games were held in Chicago, Illinois, in 1968. The most recent[when?] Special Olympics World Winter Games in Schladming, Austria involved 25 sports and approximately 2,277 athletes from 133 countries. [citation needed]


At the beginning of the 20th century, another multi-sport event, the Nordic Games were first held. These Games were held in Scandinavia, and the sports conducted were winter sports such as cross-country skiing and speed skating. The Nordic Games were last held in 1926, after which the 1924 Winter Sports Week in Chamonix was declared the first Olympic Winter Games. In the 1920s, all kinds of other multi-sport events were set up. These were usually directed for a selected group of athletes, rather than everybody, which was the case with the Olympic Games. The Soviets organized the first Spartakiad in 1920, a communist alternative to the 'bourgeois' Olympic Games, and in 1922 the University Olympia was organizedor in Italy, the forerunner of the World University Games, meant for students only. Regional games were another kind of multi-sport event that was established, such as the Far Eastern Championship Games (1913), the Central American and Caribbean Games (1926) or the Pan American Games (1951).

List of international multi-sport competitions

Main article: List of multi-sport events

The Olympic Games are still the largest multi-sport event in the world in terms of worldwide interest and importance (though no longer in participation), but several others also have significance.

Worldwide events

Multi-sport events for non-Olympic sports
By occupation
By organisation and language
By political and historical allegiance
By national origin/descent or ethnicity

Regional events

National events


Other Games are intended for handicapped or disabled athletes. The International Silent Games, first held in Paris in 1924, were the first Games for deaf athletes. The Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, K incepted in 1948 in England, were the first Games for wheelchair athletes. In 1960, the first Paralympic Games were held, connected with the Olympic Games. The Special Olympics World Games, for athletes with intellectual disabilities, were first held in 1968.

See also


  1. ^ Leigh, Mary H.; Bonin, Thérèse M. (1977). "The Pioneering Role Of Madame Alice Milliat and the FSFI in Establishing International Trade and Field Competition for Women" (PDF). Journal of Sport History. 4 (1). North American Society for Sport History: 72–83. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2010. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  2. ^ "UNESCO - Naadam, Mongolian traditional festival".
  3. ^ "The Naadam Festival: Mongolia's Games".
  4. ^ Mental muscles flexed at Mind Sports Olympiad CNN, 24 August 1997, Archived 31 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 13 July 2012
  5. ^ "The Caribbean Games". canoc.net. 2008-11-07. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2011-05-20.
  6. ^ Caribbean Games hopefully in 2011 | Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. Naoc.info. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  7. ^ sportcaraibe Resources and Information Archived 2015-09-04 at the Wayback Machine sportcaraibe.net. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.