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A multi-sport event is an organized sporting event, often held over multiple days, and 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, 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 first modern multi-sport event organised were the Olympic Games, organised by the International Olympic Committeemarker (est. 1894) for the first time in 1896 in Athensmarker, Greecemarker. After some badly organised celebrations (1900, 1904), the Olympics became very popular. 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 Chamonixmarker 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 Italymarker, 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.

Central audiences

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

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

By organisation and language

By political and historical allegiance

By ethnicity


Regional events


Other Games are intended for handicapped or disabled athletes. The International Silent Games, held in Parismarker in 1924, were the first Games for deaf athletes. The Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, incepted in 1948 in Englandmarker, 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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