Olympic Archery Events

Archery is one of the oldest arts, and the earliest drawings of a bow and arrow date back about 5000 years ago in Egypt. The bow and arrow are considered one of the most important cultural advances made by man, and were originally used for hunting and as weapons of war.

The Egyptians innovated arrowheads, originally constructed of flint but then were later made of bronze. Around 1500 BC, the Assyrians developed the shorter recurve bow, which provided more power and easier handling. The same basic design principle is used in today's Olympic archery competitions, but the recurve has been refined, with fiberglass, carbon graphite and aluminum now being the materials of choice.

As gunpowder replaced the bow and arrow as the world's primary weapon, archery became more of a sporting pastime. In 1900, the sport first appeared in the Olympics Games in Paris. It was also contested at the Games of 1904, 1908 and 1920. Archery events in these early Olympic Games varied widely.

Archery was dropped from the Olympic program until the 1972 Munich Games because of the lack of uniform international rules. The Federation Internationale de Tir a l'Arc (FITA), the international governing body of the sport, was founded in 1931 and implemented standardized rules for competition. It allowed the first World Championship to be held.


The format of the men and women's individual competition is the same and consists of a ranking round followed by the FITA Olympics round.  The competition consists of a Mens 70-meter individual and a 70-meter team event.  The same applies to the women.

In the ranking round, archers shoot 72 arrows at a target 70 meters (229 feet, 8 inches) away in 12 ends (rounds) of six arrows each. A perfect score is 720. The same set of shots is used to seed teams for the team competitions.

The FITA Olympic round is divided into the elimination round and the finals round. The 64 competitors, seeded from the ranking round, advance to the elimination round, a single-elimination, head-to-head style of competition (seed No. 64 vs. seed No. 1, 63 vs. 2, etc). Six ends of three arrows -- for a total of 18 -- are shot at a target 70 meters away with a 40-second time limit per arrow. Winners of each match move on to the next round.

The finals round is held when the field has been narrowed to eight archers. It begins with the quarterfinals and continues with the semifinals and final. In the semifinal and final rounds, archers shoot four ends of three arrows each--for a total of 12--with a 40-second time limit per arrow.

Each team consists of three archers. In all matches in the team event, each team shoots three ends of nine arrows each with each archer on the team shooting one end. Each of the three archers is required to finish their end within three minutes.

Only one archer of the team shoots at a time. When the first archer finishes shooting his end, the second archer starts. The third shooter follows the second one. The arrows are scored and pulled after each team shoots nine arrows.

The losers of the semifinals shoot in the bronze medal match and the two winners shoot in the gold medal final. Archers shoot four ends of three arrows in all matches after the quarterfinals.

Ties are broken with a "sudden death" overtime. Each archer shoots one arrow and the highest score wins. If tied, a second arrow is shot for highest score. If still tied, a single closest-to-the-center arrow determines the winner. Archers have 50 seconds to shoot each tie-breaking arrow.


The target, usually made of paper, has a diameter of 122 centimeters (4 feet). It is divided into five colored rings and each ring is divided in half. The width of each color zone is 12.2 (4.8 inches) centimeters and the width of each scoring zone -- half of a color zone -- is 6.1 (2.4 inches) centimeters.

The inner color zone is gold and the outer ring is white. The rings and the corresponding point values are as follows (from innermost to outermost):


 Gold inner:
 Gold outer:
 Red inner:
 Red outer:
 Blue inner:
 Blue outer:
 Black inner:
 Black outer:
 White inner:
 White outer:

 10 points
 9 points
 8 points
 7 points
 6 points
 5 points
 4 points
 3 points
 2 points
 1 point

If an arrow is touching two rings, the ring with the higher point score is counted. If an arrow becomes embedded in another arrow, the score of the first arrow is taken. If an arrow misses the target, no points are scored.

If an arrow rebounds from the target or passes through the target, the score is taken from the mark left by the arrow, providing it can be identified. The archer raises a flag after finishing an end to let the judges know an arrow has rebounded.

Archers may wear a few specific items of protection, such as finger protection, a glove on the bow hand and glasses, as long as they provide nothing that gives an archer an advantage.

Archers may use their own bows and arrows, providing they conform to the specifications set out by competition officials. An arrow is considered a shot if it goes beyond the reach of the archer. If an arrow falls to the ground within reach, it may be shot again.

If an archer shoots an extra arrow, or shoots an arrow out of sequence or outside the time limit, the highest scoring arrow of that end is not counted. In the team events, archers may be coached while on the shooting line.

Equipment and Costs

The Olympic archery competition is considered part of the FITA's Recurve Division and thus competitors must use a bow that meets the standards of that group. The recurve bow must use a single string, attached between the ends of the bow, to propel the arrow. No system of pulleys, as employed in compound bow, is allowed.

A single, mechanical sight is permitted, but no optical enhancements, such as lenses or prisms, may be used. Stabilizers are allowed on the bow as long as they do not touch anything but the bow, serve as a string guide, or impede other competitors. The fiberglass recurve bows today can launch aluminum or carbon-graphite arrows at speeds of about 240 kilometers (140 miles) per hour over the 70-meter distance.

Any type of arrow is allowed, provided the diameter of the shaft does not exceed 11 millimeters (.4 inches). The arrows of each competitor must be marked on the shaft with the competitor's name or initials and all arrows used in the same end shall carry the same pattern and colors.

Used bows and arrows can be purchased for less than $100 for beginners, and rentals are also available at most ranges.  The range for new equipment is from $100 to $1,500 depending on the individuals resources and commitment.  The competitive archer should also think about paying for some coaching.  Costs will vary depending upon the local availability, and the level of competition and competency.

Outdoor or indoor ranges typically charge fees from $5 per day to $7 per hour depending on local demand.  The ranges are usually run by clubs or local government, and they may have annual fees for usage.

The organization that is the governing body for sanctioned Olympic events in the United States is:

The National Archery Association
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80900
Phone:  (719) 578-4576
Fax:  (719) 632-4733

The Federation Internationale de Tir a lArc (FITA) was founded in 1931 as the international governing body for the sport of archery.  For more information contact:

Avenue de Cour 135
CH1007 Lausanne
Phone:  41-21-6143050
Fax:  41-21-6143055

(Material courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)