Think it’s a new sport?  Think again! Swimming has been around for thousands of years...


2500 BC - First Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting swimming.

400 BC - Egyptians and Romans leisurely dived off cliffs.

36 BC - Japanese Emperor Suigiu encouraged swimming.

78 AD - Romans introduced swimming to Britain as a manly social event.

7th Century - Plagues unnerved swimming during the Dark Ages.

14th Century - Medieval knights to master swimming in armour.

15th Century - Church objected to naked bathing on moral grounds.

16th Century - Oxford and Cambridge University banned swimming after fatalities.
         - Swim author Digby claimed humans are better swimmers than fish.

17th Century
          - Japanese Emperor Go-Yoozei ruled that schoolchildren should swim.
         - Medicinal value of natural spa springs discovered in Britain.

18th Century - Sea swimming popularized by George III

19th Century - Germany and Sweden developed acrobatic diving.

1844 - A small race exposed Britain to American Indians ’crawl’ style. Crawl soon dwarfed Breaststroke`s popularity.

1845 - First swimming championship debut in Sydney.

1875 - Captain Webb pioneered the English Channel crossing.

1885 - First diving competition, Germany.

1892 - First women’s championship, Scotland.

1908 - The Federation Internationale de Natation de Amateur (FINA) formed.

1924 - Johnny Weissmuller set 67 world records, then became ’Tarzan’.
          - Canadian sportswomen premiered sychronised swimming.

1950 - Butterfly born as a Breaststroke loophole.
          - Japanese meticulously suited techniques to their physique.

1986 - Sychronised swimming a Commonwealth Games event.

                                                            --from the web site of the 2002 Commonwealth Games

History of Swimming 
Content by Andrew Oon 

The English are considered the first modern society to develop swimming as a sport. By 1837, regular swimming competitions were being held in London’s six artificial pools, organized by the National Swimming Society in England. As the sport grew in popularity many more pools were built, and when a new governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association of Great Britain, was organized in 1880, it numbered more than 300 member clubs. 

In 1896, swimming became an Olympic sport for men with the 100 metres and 1500 metres freestyle competitions held in open water. Soon after, as swimming gained popularity, more freestyle events were added, followed by the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and finally, the individual medley.

Stroke Development 
Although people have swum since ancient times, swimming strokes have been greatly refined in the past 100 years. Competitive swimming, most notably the modern Olympic Games, begun in Athens, Greece, in 1896 increased interest in strokes. Scientific stroke analysis has helped produce more varied strokes, greater speeds, and a better understanding of propulsion through the water.

Competitive Swimming 
As swimmers refine strokes or make changes, the best way to see if the new stroke is an improvement is to use it in competition. This is why so much attention is paid to speed and endurance records.

The first modern Olympic Games had only four swimming events, three of them freestyle. The second Olympics in Paris in 1900 included three unusual swimming events. One used an obstacle course; another was a test of underwater swimming endurance; the third was a 4,000-metre event, the longest competitive swimming event ever. None of the three was ever used in the Olympics again.

For a variety of reasons, women were excluded from swimming in the first several Olympic Games. In 1896 and again in 1906, women could not participate because the developer of the modern games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, held firmly to the assumption, common in the Victorian era, that women were too frail to engage in competitive sports. It was only at the 1912 Games when women’s swimming made its debut at the prompting of the group that later became known as the International Olympic Committee.

From the humble beginning with four swimming events, the Olympics have developed to 32 swimming races, 16 for men and 16 for women. The Special Olympics, competitive swimming for people with disabilities, has 22 events for men and 22 for women.

The History of Swimming Pools

By Mary Bellis

Swimming as an organized activity goes back as far as 2500 B.C. in ancient Egypt and later in ancient Greece, Rome, and Assyria. In Rome and Greece, swimming was part of the education of elementary age boys and the Romans built the first pools (separate from bathing pools). The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the first century BC. Gaius Maecenas was a rich Roman lord and considered one of the first patron of arts - he supported the famous poets Horace, Virgil, and Propertius, making it possible for them to live and write without fear of poverty.

However, swimming pools did not became popular until the middle of the 19th century. By 1837, six indoor pools with diving boards were built in London, England. After the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 and swimming races were among the original events, the popularity of swimming pools began to spread - Reference Britannica