Swimming has appeared in every modern Summer Olympics. However, it was allowed to female swimmers in the fifth Summer Olympics Games. For more over two decades, Americans have dominated swimming, with some of the most decorated American swimmers, such as Michael Phelps, winning 23 gold medals. However, since 2004, China has become a major force in swimming, with many Chinese athletes breaking national records and some becoming very wealthy.
The next largest group of sports are athletics (including gymnastics). These events were part of the original program for the first Olympic Games in 1896. They have been included in every Summer Olympics since then except during World War I and II. In fact, athletics was one of the few sports that men and women could participate in together back then.
There are also several other minor sports that can be found at the Summer Olympics: fencing, rugby, tennis, and volleyball. Fencing was originally part of the military program at the Olympics and was only open to men until 1948 when it was opened up to women too. Today, it is among the most popular of all the martial arts on the planet.
Rugby has had two appearances in the Olympics: 1900 and 1936. It is not a world-wide sport so not many people know about it but it is popular in some countries including England, Australia, and New Zealand.
Tennis has been played at the Olympics since 1904.
Every contemporary Summer Olympics have included swimming as a sport. Since 1912, it has been available to women. It is one of the most popular spectator sports at the Games, along with track & field athletics and gymnastics. Swimming has the second-most Olympic events behind gymnastics (after athletics).
In addition to the summer games, swimming has its own world championships each year. These are held under the auspices of FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), the global authority for aquatic sports.
The modern game of swimming is generally regarded as having begun in 1872, when British athlete William Pennyfield won the first official men's competition at the Paris Universal Exposition. Women's swimming was originally not considered a separate event but rather a form of exhibition swimming performed by female swimmers competing for prizes. The first true international competition was held in Rome in 1877; it was dubbed the "Olympic Championship" and involved only men. In 1896, the first women's event was held in London; it too was called the "Olympic Championship." Although today these competitions are recognized by FINA as definitive tests of swimming skill, they were not at the time. Rather, they served to celebrate the arrival of spring by giving the public a spectacle of athletic prowess on display. As such, they were important factors in attracting spectators to outdoor tennis and cricket matches.
Swimming Swimming is the preferred Olympic sport among 43 percent of Americans who are interested in this year's Olympics. A similar proportion (39%) say artistic gymnastics is one of their favorite events, while 36% say diving. The other eight sports each receive less than 10% support.
Americans are most likely to say swimming is our country's best Olympic sport (29%). We're also fairly even split on whether boxing or wrestling is our greatest sport at the Games: 24% say boxing and 23% say wrestling. Only 5% say soccer is our top sport.
There's much more diversity within individual sports. Dancing/Diving is our favorite event but basketball, baseball, and tennis are all popular with 10% or more of the population. As for which countries lead which sports, that's also very diverse. USA Swimming leads the way among sports, but there are several others with strong preferences too. Diversify your sports team!
Swimming is the preferred Olympic sport among 43 percent of Americans who are interested in this year's Olympics. A similar proportion (39%) say artistic gymnastics is one of their favorite activities, while 36% say diving. The remaining 13% name another sport.
Among those who say they're interested in the Olympics, swimming is by far the most popular sport. It is followed by basketball, running, and tennis. Baseball, football, and hockey are each named as a favorite by about 10% of those who express an interest in this year's games.
Swimming is also the most popular activity among those who say they'll be watching at least some part of these games. Baseball, football, and ice hockey are all less popular choices for an activity to do while watching the Olympics.
The only other sport that even comes close to swimming in terms of popularity is gymnastics. Artistic gymnastics is favored by 39% of those who say they're interested in this year's Olympics, while 36% name diving as their choice. Both sports were important parts of the ancient Games but weren't included among the modern sports created in 1884. Swimming was originally called "aquatics" and gymnastics "agility exercises."
Since 1896, just five sports have been competed at each summer Olympic Games: Athletics, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, and Swimming. There were 26 sports competed in 2012, which increased to 28 in 2016, and 33 in 2020.
Of these 33 sports, three are no longer played in the modern Olympics: Ice hockey, Roller skating, and Rowing (men's eights).
The other 30 sports can be divided into six groups based on the number of participants they can include: Individual events (such as tennis or swimming) that can involve one person alone against the clock or field (or sometimes both); Duos (such as épée or sabre) that can include two people; Trios (such as futsal or beach volleyball) that can include three people; Quads (such as rugby sevens) that can include four people; Five-person teams (such as kabaddi) that cannot include any players who weigh more than 51 kg (115 lb); And six-person teams (such as shinty) that cannot include any players who weigh more than 60 kg (130 lb).
Note that this list does not include non-Olympic sports such as football or basketball. These are known as "protected games" because their organizers must agree to participate in the Olympic movement if they want to hold an event at the Olympics.
When we break down the Summer Olympics disciplines to see which countries are the quickest, highest (we're looking at high and long jumping sports, as well as trampoline), and strongest, the United States continues to top all of them. This covers track and field events with lengths of up to 400 meters and swimming events with distances of up to 200 meters. The only exception is equestrian, where France is currently number one.
China came close in 2012 when it took first place in both the sprint and relay races at the Beijing Games. Japan also proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with by taking three gold medals away from the Americans in Tokyo in 1964. But other than these two countries, there are no others that can claim to be Olympic champions in multiple events.
The most successful nation in the Summer Olympics history is probably Russia. It won four gold medals at the 1920 Antwerp Games and four more at the 1924 Paris Games. Since then, no one else has been able to match this number.
In fact, no country has won more than three gold medals since Russia's streak ended in 1936. Sweden is the current world leader in Olympic gold medals after winning its third title in 2016. It has also performed very well in other competitions as well, such as the Paralympics, where it has won over 20 gold medals since 2000.
Sweden's success is mainly due to its dominance in athletics.