The modern Olympics began in 1896 in Greece and have been held every four years since, apart from interruptions due to the two world wars. On the track the blue ribbon event has always been the 1500m for men since competitors that want to win must have a unique combination of speed, strength and stamina combined with an acute tactical awareness. For the spectator the event lasts long enough to be interesting (unlike say the 100m dash) but not too long so as to become boring (as do most 10,000m races). The event has been witness to some of the most dramatic scenes in Olympic history; who can forget Herb Elliott winning by a street in 1960, breaking the world record and continuing his sequence of never being beaten in a 1500m or mile race in his career? And remembering the joy and relief etched on the face of Seb Coe when winning and beating his arch rival Steve Ovett still brings a tear to the eye of many of us. The complete record of winners of the men’s 1500m from 1896 to 2004 is
given in Table 10.1. Can we use these winning times as the basis of a suitable statistical model that will enable us to predict the winning times for future Olympics?