One thing is guaranteed when male and female gymnasts compete in the Summer Olympics every four years: There will be a string of amazing performances. Artistic gymnastics has gained a high degree of popularity as an Olympic sport because gymnasts have a knack for making complex routines look easy and executing them with flawless precision.
The 2012 London Olympics will feature one of the most talented groups of gymnasts yet.
This viewer's guide will highlight the essential information you need to know about the artistic gymnastics competition:
Dates and Times
Qualification rounds for artistic gymnastics are held on July 28 for the men starting at 11 a.m. GMT and July 29 for the women starting at 9:30 a.m. GMT. Team finals will be on July 30 for the men and July 31 for the women. Both have 4:30 p.m. GMT start times. Individual all-around finals for the men are on Aug. 1 and for the women are on Aug. 2 with start times of 4:30 p.m. GMT on both days. The individual event finals run from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7 with a 2 p.m. GMT start each day.
All artistic gymnastics events will be held in North Greenwich Arena. The 20,000-seat arena will also host the basketball finals.
A total of 196 athletes -- 98 men and 98 women -- will compete in the qualification rounds. Each nation is limited to teams of five men and five women.
Ten individual events will be contested among the gymnasts. For the men, the events are floor, parallel bars, vault, rings, high bar and pommel horse. For the women, the events are floor, balance beam, vault and uneven bars. Additionally, both men and women will compete for individual all-around medals and team medals.
Gymnasts will be scored using the open-ended scoring system that was adopted following the 2004 Athens Olympics. It replaced the old perfect 10 system. Athletes are now scored using a scale that takes both difficulty and execution into consideration.
A first panel of judges awarded a difficulty score based on the complexity and degree of difficulty of the routine. A second panel of judges awards an execution score based on the quality of execution and artistry of the routine. The final score are determined through adding the two scores together. Typical final scores range from 13 to 16 points.
Deductions can be made from the final score based on errors during the routine. These deductions range from 0.1 point to 1 point depending on the type of error. A fall results in the severest penalty with a full point deducted from the final score.
Gymnasts go through four phases of competition in artistic gymnastics. These four phases include a qualification round, a team final, an individual all-around final, and individual apparatus finals.
Scores from the qualification round are used to determine who will advance to the three final phases. Eight teams qualify for the men's team final and women's team final. The top 24 men and top 24 women advance to their respective all-around finals. Eight gymnasts qualify to contest each apparatus final. Only two individual athletes per nation may qualify for the all-around finals and individual apparatus finals.
In the team finals, teams choose three gymnasts to compete on each apparatus. All three scores count in determining the overall team score. During the team finals, only two apparatus are in use at any given time. Events are performed in Olympic order: floor, pommel, rings, vault, parallel bars, high bar for men and vault, uneven bars, beam, floor for women.
No scores from qualifying rounds carry over to the finals.John Coon has covered gymnastics as a sports reporter for many publications and wire services. He and his girlfriend have also been past season ticket holders for University of Utah gymnastics meets.