Rhythmic gymnastics provides one of the most spectacular events of the Olympic programme and a true demonstration of athletic prowess.
Christine Still, BBC Sport
"Rhythmic gymnastics is a very feminine sport. It celebrates the beauty of women's sport at the Olympics. These gymnasts have to be supple, strong and possess wonderful hand-eye coordination. The team competition is unbelievable. It is equal to anything you will watch at Cirque du Soleil. The Russians are the outstanding experts in this field. Team GB have Francesca Jones in the individual competition and will compete as a team after their selection issues were resolved."
Like synchronised swimming, rhythmic gymnastics is only contested by women. It uses many positions and leaps derived from classical ballet, including pliés, jetés, attitudes and arabesques.
Former Soviet Union countries, particularly Russia and Belarus, plus Italy are likely to be among the strongest nations.
Great Britain's rhythmic gymnasts survived a scare en route to London 2012 when they narrowly failed to reach a target set by their own governing body. The gymnasts launched an appeal and
were eventually granted their place
at the Olympics by an independent arbitrator.
Why is it good for you?
Gymnastics requires strength, mobility, endurance, flexibility, body control and co-ordination.
The high level of physical fitness needed to excel helps encourage a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet.
The wide range of movements involved works every muscle in the body and burns approximately 315 calories per hour.
A University of Athens study found rhythmic gymnastics can help athletes develop strong, healthy bones and joints as it is a weight-bearing activity. This reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis later on in life.
As falling and rolling are key parts of gymnastics training, athletes learn how to spread the force of impacts across their whole body. This can help with injury prevention in sport and other situations.
Gymnastics is a breathtaking sport featuring a range of disciplines such as artistic, trampoline, acrobatics, aerobics and tumbling.
It is enjoyed by an estimated four million people in the United Kingdom.
Rhythmic's combination of the flexibility of gymnastics, the technical knowledge of ballet and the expression of modern dance makes it a unique activity.
Can you compete?
Get your performance under pressure analysed in just 20 minutes by four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson
There are more than 1,600 gymnastic clubs in the country and you can find the one closest to you by using the
British Gymnastics club finder
. You only need to buy your own sports kit as the different apparatus and equipment can be found in clubs.
An extensive range of training programmes for people of all abilities and ages are available in sport centres, gyms, schools, universities and colleges.
British Gymnastics' GymFusion scheme
has seen over 2000 performers take part in the non-competitive, show style festivals, with 11 events set to set to take place across the UK in the future.
Contact your local
British Gymnastics development officer
to discover information on how you can get started, with the
ensuring the highest standards are adhered to throughout the UK.
Further information can be found on the
Gymnastics Northern Ireland
More on the British Gymnastics website
Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?
'Join In Local Sport'
aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on
18/19 August, 2012
- the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.
More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.
As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.
Find an event
The competition format at London 2012
Great Olympic moment
Russia's Evgeniya Kanayeva (centre) achieved top marks in all four disciplines when winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
- From Thursday 9 August to Sunday 12 August, 96 athletes (all women) will compete at Wembley Arena
- There are two rhythmic gymnastics medals available at the Games.
- One is the individual all-around, which involves performances with a ball, clubs, a hoop and a ribbon.
- The other is the group all-around, involving teams of six gymnasts, five of whom perform in each of two routines. One routine is with five balls and the other is with three ribbons and two hoops.
- Both events see gymnasts enter a qualifying round first, to determine who reaches the final.
- In the individual all-round competition, the top 10 athletes in the qualification round advance to the final. In the group competition, the scores in the two routines in the qualification round are added together and the top eight progress to the final.
More on the London 2012 website
The rules at London 2012
Scoring in rhythmic gymnastics has been subject to several changes in recent years. Points are now awarded for difficulty, artistry and execution up to a total of 30 for each routine.
Routines using the various types of apparatus are performed to music on a square competition area that measures 13m x 13m, with marks deducted for errors. The gymnast or group with the highest score wins.
Points are deducted for a variety of infringements, for example if the music does not conform to regulations 0.50 points are taken away, if a gymnast crosses the boundaries of the floor 0.20 points are lost, and for every second a routine is under or over the allotted time 0.05 points are removed.
More on the Team GB website
Ones to watch
Just getting to the Olympics has been a battle for the GB team following a dispute with British Gymnastics over the qualification criteria.
London 2012: Rhythmic gymnastics at the Olympics (Part one)
They will not trouble the podium - making the final would be considered a major success in the group or individual, where
is likely to compete.
World and Olympic champion
of Russia is one of the most dominant competitors in any sport and will start as favourite for all-around gold.
Italy are world group champions, but 2008 gold medallists Russia will be strong again.
Rhythmic gymnastics developed in eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Elements from Swedish exercise routines and German muscle-building techniques were incorporated during the early days of the sport's evolution.
Did you know?
Rhythmic gymnastics made its Olympic debut in 1984 when many of the leading nations boycotted the Games. The event was further hampered by unpredictable currents from the venue's air-conditioning system which played havoc with the ribbons.
When it moved onto the radar of gymnastics' governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), in the middle of the 20th Century, its devotees were calling it "modern gymnastics". The FIG recognised rhythmic gymnastics as an official discipline in 1962 and the first World Championships were held in 1964.
That first title was won by Ludmila Savinkova of the Soviet Union. Its Olympic debut came at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the team event was introduced 12 years later in Atlanta, with Spain taking gold.
Organisers will be paying close attention to Wembley Arena's air-conditioning system. In 1984, it played havoc with the ribbon routine, allowing rank outsider Lori Fung of Canada to win gold.
More on the IOC website