The 800m starts with a staggered bend. Athletes run two full circuits of the track and start from a standing position in lanes. They may break from their lanes when they reach the break line after the first bend.
The competition starts with heats. The number of heats and the number of athletes progressing to the next round depends on the number of athletes competing. In each heat the fastest athletes go through, as well as a set number of the fastest losers across all the heats. The following rounds run on the same format, until eight athletes are through to compete in the final.
The draw to determine which heat athletes run in is decided by their initial seedings (based on previous performance) for the first round, and then their performances after that. This ensures that the highest seeded athletes are not drawn in the same heat.
Keys to success
Middle distance runners must combine speed and stamina with skilful use of tactics and technique. Athletes have only a short time to establish a good position that allows them enough space and the perfect opportunity to attack at the finish.
Breaking the rules
Although rare, it is still possible for an athlete to be disqualified for a false start in middle distance races. Once athletes have broken from the start and are running as close as possible to the inside of the track, the potential for jostling and obstruction is greater. The race judges are on the lookout for any athlete they perceive to be infringing the rules.
Find out more about Men’s 800m and Women's 800m competitions at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.