Gymnastics for All is the center of two signature FIG events: The World Gymnaestrada and The World Gym for Life Challenge. Both of which are held at four-year intervals, with an alternating timetable assuring there is an international event every two years. Both are in essence a celebration of the infinite possibilities of Gymnastics performance, open to participants of all stripes.
Although known to many because of its World Championships and prominence at the Olympic Games, Gymnastics is far more than a high-level competitive sport. It is the foundation of all sports, and an activity that can be practiced by everyone, young and old, big and small, regardless of color, creed and capability.
The four tenets of Gymnastics for All - Fun, Fitness, Fundamentals and Friendship - were so cherished by its founder Belgian Nicolas Cuperus that for years Cuperus defied the wishes of his colleagues by refusing to organise competitions.
Through two long-running events, the FIG strives to provide opportunities for everyone to perform, enjoy and explore the endless possibilities of Gymnastics. Gymnastics is not just a sport for the young, or for high-level competitors, insists Margaret Sikkens Ahlquist, President of the FIG Gymnastics for All Committee.
"The good thing about Gymnastics is that you never have to stop. You can always go on with another type of Gymnastics activity. Gymnastics is really from the cradle to the grave."
A festival atmosphere prevails at the weeklong World Gymnaestrada, among the largest gatherings of gymnasts from all corners of the globe. Held in a different city every four years, groups of gymnasts flock to perform creative exhibition routines and take part in large group performances, basking in an atmosphere that emphasises fun, fitness, the fundamentals of Gymnastics, and fostering international friendship.
All gymnasts are welcome at the World Gymnaestrada. Young and old, beginners or advanced, they come en masse: the 2015 World Gymnaestrada in Helsinki attracted more than 20,000 performers from 53 countries, some of whom had spent years refining their group’s performance.
All are welcome at the World Gymnaestrada, the only stipulation being that performers must be part of a group of at least 10 people. The event starts off with a cheerful Opening Ceremony, where each delegation marches out, Olympic-style, led by his or her country’s national flag. During the next several days, groups will perform at least three times. In addition to performing themselves, gymnasts have access to other performances.
One nation takes center stage each day during the World Gymnaestrada, presenting special National performances showcasing Gymnastics in the country, often centered around a cultural theme. The FIG Gala, an especially choreographed selection of some of the most spectacular performances, tops off the week, a day before the Gymnaestrada’s Closing Ceremony. The focus is largely on celebrating all types of Gymnastics, but World Gymnaestrada participants also tend to leave having made new friends for life.