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Rowing originally served as a means of transport in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but it was only in England between the end of the 17th and start of the 18th centuries that it became a sport. The first major rowing competition was the country’s famous Oxford-Cambridge university boat race, which began in 1828.

Brief overview of the rules

Rowing involves propelling a boat using oars fixed to the vessel. It differs from other disciplines in that rowers sit with their backs to the direction of movement, therefore crossing the finish line backwards.

Rowers compete across a distance of 2.000 metres, alone or in teams of 2, 4 or 8. There are two different disciplines : double scull and sweep rowing. In sweep events, rowers hold a single oar with both hands, while in sculling they hold one oar in each hand. The eight-person crews have a coxswain, who steers the boat and directs the crew. The boat is steered using a small rudder that is attached to the foot of one of the rowers by a cable. There are two lightweight rowing events.

Olympic history

Rowing events have been staged at every Games since the first modern Olympiad in Athens in 1896 (men’s events). However, because the competition was scheduled to take place at sea, it had to be cancelled that year due to bad weather. Women’s events were only officially included in the Olympic program much later, at the Games of Montréal, in 1976.

The USA initially dominated Olympic rowing, before the Soviet Union and Germany came to the forefront. Six-time Olympians Sir Steve Redgrave (five golds, one bronze) and  Elisabeta Oleniuc-Lipă (five golds, two silvers, one bronze) are widely hailed as the greatest Olympic male and female rowers of all time.

Events in 2024

The 14 rowing events will take place between the 27th of July and the 3rd of August.

  • Single Sculls (women’s / men’s)
  • Coxless Pair (women’s / men’s)
  • Double Sculls (women’s / men’s)
  • Coxless Four (women’s / men’s)
  • Quadruple Sculls (women’s / men’s)
  • Eight (women’s / men’s)
  • Lightweight Double Sculls (women’s / men’s)

Venue in 2024

International organisation

International federation : World Rowing

© Harry How/Getty Images

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