Although it is not known exactly where swimming originated, it has been around since the Stone Age, as the activity was depicted on cave dwellings of the era. Swimming is also mentioned in works related to Greek mythology.
Swimming remained a leisure activity until the early 19th century. Around this time, Great Britain's National Swimming Society began holding swimming competitions. Early swimming strokes included the breaststroke and the crawl, which was popular in South Africa.
When the modern Olympic Games returned in 1896, men's swimming was part of those first games. Freestyle and breaststroke were the first two events, with backstroke being added to the games eight years later. Women's swimming events were added to the Olympic Games in 1912.