This paper examines the governing body of international gymnastics, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) and its relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It outlines the nature of the relationship between the two bodies and how that relationship has historically impacted the resulting policy of both organizations. In particular, this research focuses on three main areas of policy. The first is economics and the shift from amateur to professional and commercial gymnastics. When the IOC began to develop commercial interests, the FIG feared losing its purity if it was to follow suit. Second, it explores policy surrounding gender. This is particularly relevant in a sport where each discipline is not only categorized by gender, but also contested on the basis of performance-gendered ideals. And finally, this research examines athlete welfare. Gymnastics is known for its young, docile participant base and, more recently, cases of sexual abuse in the United States. While a range of protective policies have since been created, what existed at an international level before then? I argue that the FIG has had to work within the confines of its Olympic remit in order to retain its relevance to the Olympic behemoth and its inclusion in the Games as gymnastics’ pinnacle event. At the same time, the FIG has mediated Olympic policy and exerted the will of the IOC over stakeholders in gymnastics. Moreover, this relationship is symbiotic: gymnastics is one of the top three most popular Olympic sports, attracting viewership and its attendant commercial benefits to the Games. This research is based on FIG bulletins and IOC correspondence, and it builds on a range of secondary works about the role of International Federations, their policies, and their rules in shaping the sports they govern.
The author is with the History Discipline Group, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia.