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Gymnastikhøjskolen: a school for gymnastics in Denmark

Nation's first sports college was founded in 1920

black and white photograph of gymnasts in formation
Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

When we think of schools, we think of subjects like mathematics, literature, foreign languages and more. But in Denmark, there is a school dedicated to gymnastics.

Gymnastikhøjskolen in the Danish town Ollerup was founded in 1920, and was the country's first sports college.

black and white photgraph, a building under construction

It was founded by Niels Bukh, who had been teaching gymnastics to men and women in the town for several years. When the buildings he had been using became too small, Bukh founded a new school which could accommodate 100 students.

black and white photograph, group of people on steps in front of a building
black and white group portrait photograph of men and women, students at Gymnastikhøjskolen

Over the years since 1920, the school has expanded to include new sporting facilities - in 1926, it was the location of Denmark's first swimming pool.

The swimming pool's architect Ejnar Mindedal Rasmussen won silver at the 1928 Olympics for his architectural drawings of the pool.

black and white photograph, a group of men at a swimming pool
black and white photograph, roof of a building under construction

Elite teams from Gymnastikhøjskolen were very popular, touring the world in the 1920s and 1930s on trips to Gemrany, Japan, South Africa and Argentina among others.

black and white photograph, group of gymnastics in formation
black and white photograph, group of male gymnastics in formation
black and white photograph, people making large ring formations in front of a large building

By the 1940s, the school's founder, Niels Bukh - who was gay - had been developing gymnastics techniques for several decades. In the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, he led the Danish gymnastics team. However, his legacy is marked by his collabortion with Nazi Germany during World War II, actively promoting Nazi ideals and cooperating in their plans for Denmark's future.

black and white photograph, portrait of a man in a suit, photographed in a library

After the war, Bukh was arrested. In 1950, Arne Mortensen and Jørgen A. Broegaard took over the running of the school.

black and white aerial photograph of buildings in a rural landscape

Today, Gymnastikhøjskolen continues to be an important school for sport and gymnastic education for adults - with health and fitness courses, as well as dance, parkour and a physical education course that prepares people to join the police.

colour photograph of a concrete building with orange slate roof

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