Evidence of recreational swimming in prehistoric times has been found, with the earliest evidence dating to Stone Age paintings from around 10,000 years ago. Written references date from 2000 BC, with some of the earliest references to swimming. Swimming emerged as a competitive sport in the early 1800s in England. In 1828, the first indoor swimming pool, St George's Baths, was opened to the public. By 1837, the National Swimming Society was holding regular swimming competitions in six artificial swimming pools, built around London. The sport grew in popularity and in 1880, the first national governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association, was formed.
Other European countries also established swimming federations; Germany in 1882, France in 1890 and Hungary in 1896. The first European amateur swimming competitions were in 1889 in Vienna. The world's first women's swimming championship was held in Scotland in 1892. In 1908, the world swimming association Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA) was formed. Men's swimming became part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. Women were first allowed to swim in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, competing in freestyle races.
At the turn of the 20th century, synchronised swimming was known as water ballet. As well as existing as a sport, it often constituted a popular addition to Music Hall evenings. The first recorded competition was in 1891 in Berlin, Germany. In North America, Australian Annette Kellerman started one of the first water ballet clubs at the University of Chicago. In 1939, the first U.S. synchronised swimming competition took place at Wright Junior College. In 1933 and 1934, Katherine Whitney Curtis organised a show for the World Exhibition in Chicago. The announcer, Norman Ross, introduced the sport as "synchronised swimming" for the first time. Curtis persuaded the AAU to make synchronised swimming an officially recognised sport in 1941.
In 1968 that synchronised swimming became officially recognized by FINA like water sport. Artistic swimming has been part of the World Aquatics Championships since the beginning in 1973. In 2017, following a request by the IOC, FINA approved changes to its constitution that renames synchronised swimming to artistic swimming. In the late 19th century, synchronised swimming was a male-only event. However, in the 20th century it became a women's sport, with men banned from many competitions. In 2014, FINA announced that men would be allowed to compete at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in two mixed-pair events.
Although diving has been a popular pastime across the world since ancient times, since the 18th centuries became popular in Sweden and Germany. The first modern diving competitions were held in England in the 1880s. The English Amateur Swimming Association first started a "plunging championship" in 1883. In 1893 and the first world championship event, the National Graceful Diving Competition, was held there by the Royal Life Saving Society in 1895. It was at this event that the Swedish tradition of fancy diving was introduced to the sport by the athletes Otto Hagborg and C. F. Mauritzi and stimulated the establishment of the Amateur Diving Association in 1901. Fancy diving was formally introduced into the championship in 1903.
Plain diving was first introduced into the Olympics at the 1904 event. The 1908 Olympics in London added 'fancy diving' and introduced elastic boards rather than fixed platforms. Women were first allowed to participate in the diving events for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. In the 1928 Olympics, 'plain' and 'fancy' diving was amalgamated into one event – 'Highboard Diving'. Synchronized diving emerged and became part of the Olympic program in 2000. The diving event was first held indoors in the Empire Pool for the 1934 British Empire Games and 1948 Summer Olympics in London. First World diving championship for men and women was held in 1973.
Marathon swim racing is a recent development in the world and became important after WWII. The World Championships are sanctioned by FINA and were first held in 1991. Other international professional races are held in all parts of the world, and most are sanctioned by FINA. Marathon swimming became an Olympic sport at the 2008 Beijing.