At the 1908 Summer Olympics held in London, England, 26 athletics events were contested, all for men only. A total of 79 medals (27 gold, 27 silver, 25 bronze) were awarded.
Each nation was allowed to enter up to 12 competitors in most of the events. In the team races (the medley relay and the 3 mile team race), each nation entered one team. The medley relay was run by four athletes, with four alternates allowed. In the 3 mile team race, five athletes from each nation ran with only three counting.
The competition was restricted to amateurs, and was held under the rules of the Amateur Athletic Association. These rules included a prohibition on any interference with other runners (a rule that played an important part in the 400 metres).
The 1908 Games were the first to feature race walking, with two different events held. Two different forms of javelin throwing also appeared, introducing the new throwing apparatus to the programme. The 60 metre short sprint was dropped from the programme, as was the middle hurdle distance. Steeplechasing was done at 3200 metres instead of the 2500 metres that had been included at the previous two editions; the team race also had its distance shortened. A short track relay event was added. The multi-discipline triathlon and decathlon events that had been experimented with at the 1904 Games were both absent, as was the 56 pound weight throw. An unusual event featuring the discus, which had become a staple of Olympic athletics, was held in which throwers had to follow a very specific throwing style. Overall there was one more event on the 1908 programme than there had been in 1904.
446 athletes from 20 nations competed. Argentina and Turkey were the only two nations not to compete in athletics.