Physical fitness was considered a very important attribute for both men and women, especially in Sparta and Athens. It was the young men who exercised without clothing. Only after the Romans conquered Greece in 146 BC, did gymnastics become a purpose to train men for warfare. Philostratus, also known as ‘the Athenian’, was a Greek sophist who claimed that gymnastics is really a form of wisdom. This he said can be compared to philosophy, poetry, music, geometry and astronomy. The Palestra in Athens was a physical education training centre where the education of the body and the education of the mind were combined to establish a form of gymnastics that was more aesthetic and individual to an athlete. This contrasted with the stricter training regimes and focus on strength and defeating records.
In the late 1700s gymnastics was introduced as an education in France. The invention of parallel bars, rings, the high bar, the pommel horse and vault horse, started the German gymnastics movement in the early 1800s. By 1881 the sport gained its highest recognised international governing body through the formation of the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) in Liège, Belgium. Fifteen years later it featured in the first modern Olympic Games of 1896. At this point participation was only for men, but by the 1920s, women organised and participated in their first gymnastics events. Women’s events featured in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, but it was very limited. The development of the sport really took off over the next two decades and by the 1954 Olympic Games, events for both men and women had been standardised to a modern format and a uniform scoring system.
Today FIG oversee a sport with eight disciplines. These are gymnastics for all, men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics, aerobic gymnastics and parkour. Rhythmic gymnastics involves five different apparatus. Gymnastics is firmly entrenched at every summer Olympic Games. FIG set the rules, known as the Code of Points. Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the federation is responsible for developing the sport worldwide, determining the eligibility of gymnasts for the Olympic Games, and ensuring the management of a drug-free sport. Additional competitions occur worldwide in the form of World Cup events specific to a discipline. As of 2019, there are 148 national federations affiliated with FIG and five continental unions.