One of the oldest Olympic sports, Gymnastics has been part of the games since ancient times, when competitions included wrestling and even fights with bulls. As the men competed naked, women were forbidden not only to compete, but also to watch.
The sport grew in Germany during the 19th century, as a means of achieving physical fitness and as military training. Spaces to practice Gymnastics began to appear throughout the European continent and beyond - partly because the sport had been banned in Germany, and therefore spread outward.
As a result, two schools appeared at the same time: the Swedish, based on free group exercises, and the German, which used apparatus. In 1881, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG, in French) was founded, and years later the sport was included in the programme of the first Modern Games in 1896, with competitions for men only.
Since its debut in the Olympic programme in 1896, and during the twenties, Artistic Gymnastics evolved: individual apparatus and team competitions for men were introduced in the 1924 Games in Paris, while women began participating in 1928 in Amsterdam, in a team event. Women’s events with the use of apparatus came only in 1952, in the Helsinki Games in Finland.
The Artistic Gymnastics programme in the Olympic Games includes several kinds of events: floor exercises, vaulting, fixed bars, parallel bars, pommel horse and rings. Women compete in floor exercises, vaulting, uneven bars and balance beam. Medals are awarded for individual events, in which the participant competes using all the apparatus, for team events and for each apparatus separately.
The first stage of the competition is the qualifying phase, in which all the gymnasts compete. The eight countries with the best performance among their athletes advance to the team finals, in which three participants perform again on all the apparatus. The final total score determines places on the podium for this event.
The top 24 participants in the overall competition (maximum of two per country) advance to the individual finals, in which gymnasts compete on all the apparatus. Moreover, the eight best gymnasts are ensured a place in the decision for each apparatus.
Points are awarded by a jury of nine judges, who assess the degree of difficulty and the quality of the movements performed in each event. Points are deducted for faults in the performance.