Multi-sport event

Multi-sport event
The Pan American Games is one of the largest multi-sport events and involves athletes from the Americas.

A multi-sport event is an organized sporting event, often held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports between organized teams of athletes from (mostly) nation-states. The first major, modern, multi-sport event of international significance was the modern Olympic Games.

Many regional multi-sport events have since been founded and modeled after the Olympics. Most 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. The games are generally held every four years, though some are annual competitions.



The Tailteann Games, held near modern Telltown in Ireland, was one of the first multi-sport festivals to be recorded, and its history can be traced back to 1829 BC. These games were a thirty-day meeting which included footraces and stone-throwing events among other events. 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:

  • Panhellenic Games:
  • The Roman Games – Arising from Etruscan rather than purely Greek roots, the Roman Games deemphasized footraces and throwing. Instead, the Greek sports of chariot racing and wrestling, as well as the Etruscan sport of gladiatorial combat, took center stage.

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.


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

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 badly organized celebrations (1900, 1904), the Olympics became very popular. The number of sports, initially only a few, is still growing.

Paralympic Games

The Paralmypics Games is the largest multi-sport event involving athletes with physical disabilities, and is organised 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.

Other events

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 - basically - the case with the Olympic Games. The Soviets organised the first Spartakiad in 1920, a communist alternative to the 'bourgeois' Olympic Games, and in 1922 the University Olympia was organised 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 or the Central American and Caribbean Games.

List of major international competitions

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-sports events for non-Olympic sports
  • World Games, held first in 1981, stage many sports (though not all) that are not Olympic sports. The World Games is therefore sometimes also unofficially called Olympics for non-Olympic sports. (They cannot be called "Olympic" games without infringing on the Olympic committees' trademarks.)
  • World Mind Sports Games, first held in 2008 for games of skill (e.g. chess, go, etc.)
  • The X Games and Winter X Games, which highlight extreme action sports.
By occupation
  • World University Games (also called Universiade), held first in 1923, for students at universities worldwide
  • Military World Games, held first in 1995, for military athletes from over 100 countries
  • World Police and Fire Games, begun in 1985, for law enforcement officers and firefighters worldwide; third only to the World Masters Games and Summer Olympics in number of participants.
By organisation and language
By political and historical allegiance
  • Bolivarian Games, began in 1938, for countries liberated by Simón Bolívar
  • Games of the Small States of Europe held first in 1985, for eight small states in Europe
  • Island Games, first held in 1985, for teams from several islands and other small territories.
  • Goodwill Games, held first in 1986, held as an alternative after the boycotted Olympics of 1980 and 1984. (Final edition was held in 2001)
  • Spartakiad, a defunct event involving athletes from the Soviet Union
  • Games of the New Emerging Forces, held first in 1963 in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the so-called "emerging nations" (mainly newly independent socialist states).
By national origin and national descent
By ethnicity
  • Gay Games and World OutGames held first in 1982 and 2006, for the worldwide gay community.
  • World Masters Games, first held in 1985, for mature athletes. Most participants of any multi-sport event, with approximately twice as many competitors as the Summer Olympics.
  • European Masters Games, first held in 2008, for mature athletes (generally for 30-35 years or older, dependent on sport).

Regional events

National events


Other Games are intended for handicapped or disabled athletes. The International Silent Games, held in Paris in 1924, were the first Games for deaf athletes. The Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, 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.


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