One of the most popular Olympic sports in the summer, gymnastics exhibits strength, flexibility and courage. But, how did gymnastics become an Olympic Sport? Well, it’s an interesting story, one that started thousands of years ago.
How Did Gymnastics Become an Olympic Sport?
It’s Been Around for a Bit
People have done some form of gymnastics for more than 2,000 years. Since that time, it has experienced a serious evolution. The sport started out with ancient civilizations participating in strength and acrobatic exercises. The word “gymnastics” actually comes from two Greek words – “gymnos” and “gymnazo.” Together, they mean to train and exercise naked. That’s right, we said naked, which is probably why leotards are tight and feature very little material.
The great grandfather of gymnastics is a fellow named Johann Christoph Friedrich Gutsmuths. He was an educator and a teacher in Germany. Back in 1793, he published a gymnastics book, one that offered guidance and tips for participating in the activity. A different German man by the name of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn – apparently, Friedrich was a popular name in Germany – is considered the father of gymnastics. He was in the Prussian army during the early 1800s, and he had the idea that soldier morale would be improved by their developing gymnastic-type abilities. He opened a gym in 1811 with rings, a high bar, and parallel bars.
The Modern Version of the Sport
Gymnastics became an organized sport in 1881, and in 1896, it reached the Olympic games. During these early years, women weren’t permitted to participate. Also, it was quite different than what you’ll see on your television next summer. For one, some of the events included several that we see in track and field such as high jumping and running. Women were finally given permission to compete in 1920.
As We Know It
The sport as we know it came together in 1956. This was when the Olympic committee decided that Gymnastics events for men would consist of floor exercise, horizontal bar, pommel horse, parallel bars, rings and vault. Women’s gymnastics includes vault, balance beam, floor exercise and uneven bars.
Continuing to Push the Envelope
While men and women continue to perform the same exercises as they did decades ago, athletes always push the envelope. They do this by making every exercise more difficult. Today, gymnastic performances feature more flips and twists than they did in the early years. When you consider how gymnastics became an Olympic sport, remember the years and effort it takes a gymnast to reach that level of the sport. The Olympics just wouldn’t be the same without this amazing event. Here at Purple Moss Photography, we’ll be watching summer 2020!