Competition to establish who can lift the heaviest weight has been recorded throughout civilization, with the earliest known recordings including those found in Egypt, China and ancient Greece. The origins of modern weightlifting competition are to be found in the 18th- and 19th-century with strong men, who performed for commercial and entertainment purposes. The first world champion was crowned in 1891, the weightlifters were not categorized by weight at this time. The first Olympic Games of 1896 included weightlifting in an athletics events, like the Olympics in 1904.
In 1920, at the suggestion of the International Olympic Committee, the International Weightlifting Federation (Fédération Haltérophile Internationale; FHI) was formed to regularize events and supervise international competition. In the same year, weightlifting returned to the Olympics and, for the first time, as an event in its own right. From there weightlifting has always been on the programme of the Olympic Games. World championships were held in 1922–23 and from 1937, except during the war years and a women's championship did not exist until 1987. At the 2000 Olympic Games, women were officially allowed to compete in the weightlifting competitions.