1948 MAG Olympics

1948: The Men’s Rules and Apparatus Norms for the London Olympics

In 1948, the men were one year away from having their very first Code of Points. Surprisingly, the technical committee didn’t simply copy and paste the rules for the 1948 Olympics into the 1949 Code of Points. The two documents look surprisingly different.

Let’s take a look at the rules that were in place for the London Olympics.

Competition Structure | Composition Requirements | Judging | Scoring | Miscellaneous Rules | Apparatus Norms | Documents

Competition Structure

10 gymnasts per team, 8 gymnasts maximum per event

Each nation can bring a team of 10 gymnasts where 8 maximum can take part in all the exercises.

Translations are my own. Always refer to the French text for any doubts.

Team Total = 6 Best All-Around Scores on Each Team

Note: It wasn’t the 6 best scores on each event.

To determine the final result for the team competition, the points obtained by the team’s six best all-around gymnasts are added together. The two gymnasts who have obtained the lowest number of points in the all-around shall be eliminated when adding the total number of points for the team competition. But the results they have achieved count for the individual classification on the apparatuses and floor exercise.

Awards for Team + Individual All-Around + Events

The gymnastics program at the Olympic Games will include twelve events, consisting of ten exercises on apparatuses and two floor exercises.

A. Team competition (by nations) on 12 events

B. Individual competition
1. On the 12 events [all-around]
2. On each apparatus separately and on floor exercise

Note: this was different from the women’s competition, which was solely a team competition.

The Events Being Competed On

Compulsory and optional routines:

  • High bar
  • Parallel bars
  • Pommel horse
  • Vault
  • Rings
  • Floor exercise

Composition Guidelines

High Bar
Exclusively movements of swinging and flight

Parallel bars
Combined movements of swing, strength, and flight

Without swinging of the rings, combined moves of swing and strength

Pommel horse
Combinations with circles in two directions, to the left and to the right, as close as possible to symmetrical work

Floor exercise
Artistic movements and somersaults, with life, positions, balances, traveling movements, expression, sentiment, elegance, individuality, and of originality.

The duration of the optional floor exercise cannot be less than 1 minute or longer than 2 minutes.

My thought bubble: Having to circle in both directions on pommel horse is just cruel.

Teammates cannot perform the same optional routines.

Optional exercises will be essentially different from compulsory exercises. Except for vault, optional exercises of a team must differ from gymnast to gymnast.


Requirements for Judges

Each Federation designates three judges whose competence and fairness are above all suspicion. Names and qualities of the judges and their addresses will be published, later, a month before the competition.

A Commitment to Avoid Bias

Each country is responsible for the competence and the fairness of the members appointed by them for the Jury.

Each member of the Jury must make a solemn commitment to evaluate only the work of gymnastics without regard to the person and to the nation.

Four judges per event

A jury is made up of four members.

Each jury is assisted by a secretary and calculators.

Judges could be replaced.

The president of the jury can exclude a judge who does not judge the exercises in an absolutely correct way and have him replaced by the substitute, who must be present in the field throughout the duration of the competition.

Judging isn’t a group project.

Judges work independently of each other ; however, they will be able to consult each other

for the first two gymnasts who compete on an event, or in exceptional cases.

Rotating judges

The compulsory and optional exercises are not, if possible, judged by the same jury.

On Scoring

0.25 increments from 0 to 8;
0.1 increments from 8 to 10

The scoring is done by quarter points from 0 to 8 points and in tenths of a point from 8 to 10 points.

Sum — not averages — of the middle numbers

The lowest and highest of the four scores will not be taken into consideration, and the final result will be constituted by the addition of the two middle scores.

How to resolve score discrepancies

If the difference between two middle scores is greater than one point, the judges will immediately agree between them, the group secretary reports it to the president of the jury, who will intervene to restore agreement and who make an unappealable decision, if the desired agreement cannot be reached.

If the 2 middle ratings are 9 points or above, the gap between the judges cannot exceed a ½  point.

Falling was brutal: Up to 2 points

If during the optional exercise, the gymnast interrupts his work with his feet on the ground, and even if he lets go of the apparatus, he will be allowed to continue his exercise (without restarting from the beginning again) but with a loss of 1 ½ to 2 points.

Compulsory exercises

0 point for non-execution
2 points for faulty execution
4 points for mediocre execution
6 points for satisfactory execution
8 points for good execution
10 points for perfect execution

Note: This was similar to the scale for the 1949 Code of Points.

Free exercises

2 points for the beauty and composition of the exercise
3 points for the difficulty


1 point for faulty execution, or
3 points for satisfactory execution, or
4 points for good execution, or
5 points for perfect execution

Maximum Scores

Team Totals

Compulsory exercises: 20 points x 6 gymnasts = 120 points

Optional exercises: 20 points x 6 gymnasts = 120 points

240 points per apparatus

240 points x 6 apparatus = 1,440 points

Individual Totals

A competitor will obtain the maximum: by apparatus 20 x 2 exercises = 40 points and for the total of the competition 40 x 6 = 240 points

Miscellaneous Rules

Men can repeat compulsory routines

On the events, every gymnast can repeat a compulsory exercise that he judges to be a miss or a failure. He should declare his intention to the jury, before the judges have finished scoring and before the team moves to the next event. Only the second attempt will count. On both the compulsory and optional vault, each gymnasts has two attempts. The best score counts. The compulsory routine on floor exercise cannot be repeated.

Note: The women could not repeat routines.

You can be lifted to the apparatus.

Very short gymnasts who cannot reach the high bar or rings by jumping, can be lifted to the bar by the coach. On parallel bars, the use of a board is permitted.

Once you’re out, you’re out

Any gymnast leaving his team without authorization of the jury will not be able to re-enter.

It is not allowed during the competition to substitute one gymnast for another.

But if you’re injured, you get 30 minutes

Any indisposition, any accident must be immediately reported by the team managers and noted by the doctor on duty.

In order to allow the indisposed gymnast to recover, the section may interrupt its work for thirty minutes at most. If after this time the observed injury persists, the section will resume work and the gymnast is eliminated.

Very important: You could wear a different outfit for every event.

Competition clothing must be uniform for all gymnasts of a team. It can be changed from one event to another, but without wasting time to not hinder the smooth running of the competition. Performing without shoes or leotards is not tolerated.

No changes to line-ups after submission

Before 6 in the evening the day before the start of the competition, the coach of each team will name from the list of 10 gymnasts already registered, the 6 to 8 gymnasts who will form part of the team in the order in which they will compete. From this moment no change will be allowed in the staff of the team or in the order of the lineup.

The Definition of Amateur for Gymnastics

Practitioners of artistic gymnastics are not considered to be amateurs, but rather professionals, who perform to the public for a fee or who have taken part in competitions with personal cash prizes. 

Teachers of physical education, or gymnastics, in schools, who exclusively teach elementary gymnastics, or who teach it concurrently with other subjects, are not professionals within the meaning of this definition.

Note #1: This definition appeared only in the men’s section of the rules; it didn’t appear in the women’s.

Note #2: The rules about being an amateur had changed since the 1896 Olympics.

Is amateur: Anyone who has never taken part in a competition open to everyone, nor competed for a cash prize or a sum of money, from whatever source it comes, including field admissions, or with professionals, and who has never been at any period of his life, teacher or salaried instructor of physical exercises. Whoever obtains money by means of the prizes he has won, thereby loses his quality of amateur.

Est amateur: Toute personne qui n’a jamais pris part à un concours ouvert à tous venants, ni concouru pour un prix en espèces ni pour une somme d’argent, de quelque source qu’elle provienne, notamment des admissions sur le terrain, ou avec des professionels, et qui n’a jamais été à aucune période de sa vie, professeur ou moniteur salarié d’exercises physiques. Celui qui se procure de l’argent au moyen des prix qu’il a gagnés, perd par là même, sa qualité d’amateur.

Jeux Olympiques, Athènes, 5-15 April, 1896: Programme détaillé pour les sports athletiques et la gymnastique 

Apparatus Norms

Note: Throughout this section, I’ll use NS to signify “Not Specified.”

High Bar

Diameter32 mm28/30 mm28 mm
Height230 cm240 cm280 cm

Additional Notes for 1948: “Polished steel bar”

Parallel bars

Height150 cm160 cm200 cm
Width42 cm42 to 46 cm42 to 52 cm
Length of Rails280 cm300 to 360 cm350 cm

Additional Notes for 1948: “Bars in the form of an oval” (No specification on the bar diameter.)

Pommel horse

Length of Horse160 cm180 cm190 cm
Width of Horse40 cm35 to 37 cm35 cm
Spacing of Pommels42 cm42 cm40 to 45 cm
Height to Top of Pommels140 cm120 cm127 cm
Height of Pommels from HorseNS12 cm12 cm

Additional notes for 1948: “Pommels are of polished wood, with the upper horizontal part of approximately 8 cm.”


Height of PorticoNS550 cm580 cm+
Height of Rings from Floor230 cm240 cm280 cm
Inner Diameter of Rings17.5 cm18 cm18 cm
Thickness22 or 23 mm28 mm28 mm
The apparatus norms in 2021 don’t give specific dimensions for the height of the frame, but the height of the attachment point of the straps is 580 cm.

Additional notes for 1948: The ropes may end with straps or movable straps to which the rings attach.

Polished wooden rings.


There aren’t specific vault dimensions. The document does include the board settings.

TREMPLIN DUR.—10 cm [of height] in the front

A “tremplin dur” (hard board) was essentially a ramp with a piece of wood under the highest part:

a very low board that is barely ten centimeters high, consisting of a shorter board and resting on a large wooden cleat. Originally, as Cupérus points out, this hard board “is a board intended to mark the place where it is necessary to put the foot,” but its aim is also “to provide the resistance that the ground would not always offer strong and often repeated foot strikes.”

un tremplin très bas qui fait à peine une dizaine de centimètres de hauteur, constitué par une planche plus courte et reposant sur un gros tasseau de bois. A l’origine, comme le souligne Cupérus, ce tremplin dur — par opposition au tremplin élastique — “est une planchette destinée à marquer l’endroit où il faut poser le pied”, mais son but est aussi “de fournir la résistance que le sol n’offrirait pas toujours à des appels du pied d’une grande force et souvent réitérés.”

Les étapes de la gymnastique au sol et aux agrès en France et dans le monde

Here’s a drawing of a “tremplin dur” from Jahn’s Second Edition of Die Deutsch Turnkunst in 1847:

You can see an example in this photo from the 1936 Olympics:

1936 Olympics, Berlin – Anita Bärwirth

For more on the evolution of boards, check out this post.

Countries could bring their own apparatuses

The competing teams are free to bring their own apparatus and install them at their expense and risk on the location designated by the Organizing Committee.

Note: Starting with the World Championships in 1950, countries could no longer bring their own apparatus to the competition:

All apparatus must be made available by the Organizing Committee. The latter is required to comply with regulatory provisions as well as with the instructions given by the Executive Committee.

A double set of apparatus will be used for team training a few days before the competition. No nation will be allowed to use its own equipment in the competition.

Tous les engins doivent être mis à disposition par le Comité d’organisation. Ce dernier est tenu de se conformer aux dispositions réglementaires ainsi q’aux instructions que la Commission exécutive lui donnera.

Un jeu double d’engins servira à l’entraînement des équipes quelques jours avant le concours. Aucune nation ne sera autorisée à utiliser ses propres engins au concours.

General Instructions for the 1950 World Championships


More on 1948

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