Greek philosopher Plato presented his philosophy of education in his seminal work, The Republic. He considered education to be based around two pillars: gymnastics for the body and music for the soul. For the Greek philosophers, intellectual activity had to go hand-in-hand with physical activity. Plato’s definition of gymnastics incorporated both wrestling and dancing, essentially paving the way for the modern-day gymnastics disciplines for which the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is the world governing body.
While the wrestling component of gymnastics in ancient Greece featured in the original Olympic Games, it was not until the first Olympic Games of the modern era that gymnastics as we know it today was included on the Olympic programme. Thanks to the efforts of German gymnastics educator Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who we have to thank for the invention of the parallel bars, the discipline of Artistic Gymnastics began to emerge, with the “artistic” elements intended to differentiate from a hitherto more military-focused gymnastics. Gymnastics clubs inspired by the “Turnplatz” design featured by Jahn in his Treatise on Gymnasticks spread beyond Germany and even reached across the Atlantic, with the first gymnastics clubs opening in the United States in the mid-1820s.
This paved the way for gymnastics to be included on the programme of sports when the Olympic Games were revived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in Athens in 1896. Since then, gymnastics has continued to evolve, with the men’s individual apparatus and team competitions appearing at the Paris Olympic Games in 1924, the women’s programme being developed for the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki and the perfect 10s of Nadia Comaneci and Nellie Kim at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games (where both of these gymnasts were just 14 years old).
Ever since the sport’s Olympic origins, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has been the governing body for Gymnastics worldwide recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Founded in 1881, the FIG is the oldest established international federation of any Olympic sport. The FIG governs eight disciplines: Gymnastics for All, Men's and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline Gymnastics (including Double Mini-trampoline and Tumbling), Aerobic Gymnastics, Acrobatic Gymnastics and Parkour. The FIG has more than 160 national member federations and has its headquarters in the Olympic Capital of Lausanne (SUI).