Rules are similar to other throwing events: competitors take a number of throws, their best legal throw is recorded and the winner is the individual with the longest legal throw. The most noticeable difference with the other events is that rather than a throwing circle as used in discus, shot put and hammer throw, the competitors have a run-up area coated with the same rubberised surface used for coating running tracks, and a painted line on the surface from which they must release the javelin from. The javelin's point must touch the ground first for the throw to be legal.
Javelin throwers gain considerable forward velocity in their run-up to their throws, and as well as strength demonstrate athleticism more similar to running and jumping events. Thus, the athletes share more similar physical characteristics to those athletes rather than the bulky frames of the strength throwers.
The javelin throw has been part of the Summer Olympics since its inception. Although the javelin is currently used only for sport in most areas, it has a long history of use for hunting and warfare. There are, for instance, numerous references to the javelin in ancient Hellenic civilization, who practised a form of javelin throwing at the ancient Olympics. The objective there, however was to throw at a target rather than for distance.