Archery first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1900 and was contested again in 1904, 1908, and 1920. Women competed in the 1904 Olympics, making archery one of the first sports to include women. In those four Games it was possible for an athlete to compete in numerous events and win several medals. Hubert van Innis from Belgium is the most decorated archer in Olympic history, winning six gold medals and three silvers in 1900 and 1920.
Archery was re-introduced to the Olympic programme in 1972 with individual events for men and women, in which John Williams and Doreen Wilber, of the USA, captured gold medals. In Seoul 1988, the team competition was introduced to the medal programme. Barcelona 1992 was the first time that archery featured the exciting head-to-head elimination competition.
The Atlanta 1996 Games marked a new milestone for the exposure of archery. Never before had so many spectators been able to watch archery live on television or in the stands as 54,680 spectators attended the competitions. The Atlanta archery coverage won the Golden Rings Award from the IOC for the best Olympic Sports coverage.
Some notable changes from the 1996 Olympics was that archery had a purpose built venue close to Olympic Park designed by an award winning architect. In addition, the team competition was staged over two days rather than the one-day format used in Atlanta. This new format for the team competition enabled men and women to have their own full day of matches. This enhanced the enjoyment for the spectators and the worldwide television audience.
In Athens, archery athletes had the unique opportunity of competing in the Panathinaiko Stadium where the first Olympic Games of the modern area took place in 1896. The Panathinaiko Stadium was built on the ruins of an ancient stadium built in 329 B.C.
"I think we had the best venue of them all!" said Jim Easton, President of the World Archery Federation (WA) in 2004. "The staging of our sport in such a historic place certainly added something very special. The Olympic Games, in themselves, are already a unique occasion for an athlete, so adding this extra dimension of being able to compete in this beautiful marble stadium where the first Games of the modern era took place—well, you could say it marks yet another place in history, one which I am sure each athlete treasured. And no doubt it was very special for the spectators, both on-site and watching on the TV networks around the world. I believe we were able to put on a show worthy of the venue—something which makes everyone very proud."
China opened its doors and welcomed the world by staging the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. China, a very strong and competitive nation in archery constructed a dedicated, temporary, venue facility situated in a cluster of venues with tennis and hockey, north of Olympic Park. This impressive venue, with a combined seating capacity of 6000 seats had two fields of play that hosted matches individually, simultaneously. This new concept, improved athlete experience and allowed spectators and media to select and view their desired matches singularly.
The 30th Olympiad, aimed to inspire a generation, was incredibly successful in terms of participation, broadcast and legacy. London 2012 saw record participation from women who made up approximately 44 per cent of the Games competitors and this was clearly evident in archery with an equal split, 64 men and 64 women.
Archery’s competition schedule, extended by 1 extra day to 8 days with the inclusion of the new sets system. All individual and team matches were staged individually, on one field of play, for maximum spectator, athlete and broadcasting experience.
Archery was located in the city centre at the iconic and historical venue of Lord’s Cricket Ground, also known as “The Home of Cricket”. This stand-alone venue sold a record 60,410 archery tickets during the Olympics, a new record for our sport. Journalists of the famous UK newspaper, The Guardian, visited many Olympic venues and rated the Olympic experience at Lord’s, home of archery for the Games, as the only 5 star venue.
The new inclusion of social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Google+, attracted 4.7 million followers. The IOC’s and World Archery’s Facebook pages added numerous fans during the Games. Olympians provided an inside view of life in the Olympic Village by sharing photographs, Twitter feeds and Facebook messages. World Archery Facebook pages now had close to 60,000 fans, while 5000 are following World Archery on Twitter. These platforms allowed athletes and fans to meet and interact online.
As a result of archery’s increased popularity and success meant the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced archery will be included among the 25 core sports to be included in the Olympic programme.
The colourful and vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro will stage both the Olympic and Paralympic archery events at the iconic Sambodromo stadium, home of the Samba, linked to the Brazilian tradition of Carnival.
Last hosted the Game in 1960, this modern city with years of history and culture will welcome the return of Olympic competition to Asia. Early designs indicate a purpose built archery venue is to be built and used in legacy after the Games to develop the sport of archery in Japan.