One of the oldest Olympic sports, gymnastics has been part of the games since ancient times, when competitions included fighting 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 part of military training and as a means of achieving peak physical fitness. In 1819 the sport was temporarily banned in Germany, prompting a spread outwards. Spaces to practice gymnastics began to appear throughout the European continent and beyond.
As a result, two schools of gymnastic thought appeared simultaneously: the Swedish, based on free group exercises, and the German, which used apparatus. In 1881, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) was founded. Fifteen years later the sport was included in the first Modern Games in Athens in 1896. Only men were allowed to compete.
Artistic gymnastics evolved substantially during the early 20th century. Individual apparatus and team competitions for men were introduced in the 1924 Paris Games, and women began participating in 1928 in Amsterdam, in a team event. Women first competed in apparatus events in the 1952 Helsinki Games.
The current artistic gymnastics programme includes six disciplines for men - floor exercises, vaulting, fixed bars, parallel bars, pommel horse and rings - and four for women; floor exercises, vaulting, uneven bars and balance beam. Medals are awarded for all-around events (team and individual) in which the participant (s) compete using all the apparatus and for individual events on each apparatus.
The first stage of the competition is qualifying, in which all the gymnasts compete. The eight countries with the best combined performance advance to the team finals, in which three participants from each country perform again on all the apparatus.
The top 24 participants in the overall competition (maximum of two per country) advance to the individual all-round finals. Finally, the eight best gymnasts for each apparatus are awarded a place in the individual final of each relevant 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.