And a pronounced presence of sporting action, as we consider two distinctly different events, lined up for London 2012:
Rhythmic Gymnastics, and Rowing.

My thanks again to the folks at http://www.olympic.org, for additional facts and figures.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

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In rhythmic gymnastics, gymnasts compete on a mat about 12.5m (41 ft) square. Using rope, a hoop, a ball, clubs, and a ribbon (in separate events), they perform choreographed movements set to music.

The ball must be made of rubber or soft plastic, with a diameter of 18-20cm, and must weigh at least 400g.

The hoop may be of wood or plastic, with an inner diameter of 80 to 90cm. It must weigh at least 300 grams. Performances with the hoop must include at least three leaps.

The rope, made from hemp or a similar material, has no set length, because it is relative to the height of the gymnast. Performances must include at least three leaps.

Gymnasts work with two bottle-shaped clubs of equal length, 40-50cm – each resembling a slender tenpin bowling pin. Made of wood or plastic, and weighing at least 150g, the clubs have a wide end (the body), a tapering middle section (the neck), and usually a ball on the end (the head) with a maximum diameter of 30mm.

The ribbon is a single 7m strip made of satin, or a similar material. One meter of its length is folded and doubled so it may be attached by a cord to a cylindrical stick 50-60cm in length, which the gymnast grasps. The ribbon must stay in perpetual, fluid motion throughout the routine.

Some acrobatic movements are permitted, but no flight elements, such as flips and handsprings, are allowed. Each competitor is judged on composition, or on the difficulty of what she does, and execution, or how well she does it.

She? Yes.

Rhythmic gymnastics is a women-only event, and evolved from a host of related disciplines. It incorporates elements of classical ballet, the German system of emphasizing apparatus work for muscle development, and the Swedish method of using free exercise to develop rhythm.

In the 1800s, rhythmic gymnastics operated under the guise of group gymnastics, and included a trace of elementary choreography. It grew slowly until the first experimental competitions started in eastern Europe in the 1930s.

The FIG (gymnastics’ governing body) recognized rhythmic gymnastics as an official discipline in 1963.
A year later, an international tournament took place in Budapest.

In 1964 the tournament was officially declared the first Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships, and Ludmila Savinkova of the Soviet Union became the first world champion.

Rhythmic gymnastics entered the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles, and has featured on the program, ever since. In its inaugural year, it was Canada’s Lori Fung who won the gold medal.

Until 1992 in Barcelona, only one individual event was on the program. A second, team event (in which five competitors perform together) was added in 1996, in Atlanta.

Rowing

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Rowing is the technique of moving a boat through water, using an oar – a lever consisting of a long shaft of wood with a blade at one end.
 
Rowing was first used as a means of transport in the ancient world.

Competitive rowing among organized crews is one of the oldest and most traditional sports. Races between oared galleys were held in ancient Egypt and Rome.

The Thames River in England (which flows through London) is the setting for three of the most celebrated rowing events in the world:
1. Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, the oldest rowing contest in the world, held annually since 1715
2. the annual boat race between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and
3. the Henley Royal Regatta.

Inaugurated in 1828, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race marked the take-off of rowing as a popular sporting event. In the language of the street, it is known simply as “The Boat Race” (“Boat race”, incidentally, is Cockney rhyming slang for “face” – but that’s not important, right now).

In modern sports, rowers race against each other either as individuals or in crews of two, four or eight.

The races are divided into sculling and sweep oar. Sculling events use two oars, whilst in sweep, the rower holds one. The eight-person crews have a coxswain, who steers the boat and directs the crew, but in all other boats one rower steers by controlling a small rudder with a foot pedal.

Rowing was adopted as an Olympic sport in 1900 and formally incorporated in the Olympic Games in 1908.

It has been staged at all editions of the Olympic Games, except in 1896 in Athens. It was on the program then, but a stormy sea led to its cancellation.

Women made their debut at the Games in 1976 in Montreal.

Sir Steve Redgrave of Great Britain is widely hailed as the greatest rower ever. A six-time World Champion, he won gold medals at five Olympic Games, and has been loosely crowned Athlete of the Century because of the extreme physical demands of rowing.

In the women’s competition, Elisabeta Lipa of Romania, has also won five Olympic gold medals – between 1984 and 2004.

So much for the Rolling Rs.

Sorry; no Rugby Sevens. You’ll have to wait for Rio 2016.

In the meantime, keep it here, for my next instalment.

Till then.

Peace.

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