The founding of the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) in 1908 was a pragmatic response to an increase in international sporting events, crowned by the Olympic Games. At the first modern Olympics in 1896, three swimming contests were held. However, no universally accepted rules, regulations or definitions governed the swimming events.
The Olympic Games competitions prior to FINA had included a variety of unusual events such as underwater swimming (1900), 200m obstacle swimming (1900) and plunge for distance (1904). Prior to the London Olympics, where a 100m pool was used, the ocean (1896), the River Seine (1900), and a little lake in St. Louis, USA (1904), had been used as Olympic sites.
In order to unify the rules and create a forum for international meetings, the leaders of the eight attending countries (Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary and Sweden) met on 19 July 1908 at the Manchester Hotel, London, on the occasion of the Games of the IV Olympiad, and resolved to form a world-wide swimming association.
Priority decisions or goals were clear: to standardise the rules for swimming, diving and water polo; to obtain control of world records and to maintain an up-to-date list of these records; and finally, to ensure the direction of Olympic Games competitions for swimming, diving and water polo.
Outstanding accomplishments in the last 40 years have included the introduction of the World Championships (1973), the first World Cups (1979), the Olympic debut of synchronised swimming (1984), the Short Course World Swimming Championships (1993), the Diving Grand Prix (1994), advances in the use of technology, specifically of electronic timing equipment; and the rapid development of the swimming programme to include new events such as Masters and Open Water Swimming.