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Axios at the Olympics: Getting set for men's gymnastics

TOKYO – The men's gymnastics team final kicks off shortly, so here's a quick guide to help get you started, whether you are watching live or waiting for NBC to show it later tonight.

Why it matters: The U.S. is among eight countries going for the gold today. Other competitors are China, Japan, Ukraine, Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany and athletes from Russia.

How it works:

  • The men compete on six different apparatus: Floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar (aka the high bar). Each country will be paired with one other through the six rotations.
  • The United States team is paired with the Russian athletes, who are competing under the Olympic flag and not their own due to a doping ban.

How to watch: The action kicks off at 6 a.m. ET, though NBC is airing it in prime time, because they have to pay off those pricey TV rights some how, 13 hour time difference or not.

Be smart: Remember when Nadia Comaneci got the first 10 in 1976? (Me either, I was 18 months old.) But I do remember the scoring system going up to 10, including when Mary Lou Retton got the perfect score on the floor exercise in the 1984 Olympics.

  • That’s no longer the way things work. Athletes can still get a perfect 10 for execution, but the overall score ends up being something like 14 or 15. (More details here.)

Fun fact: Ariake Gymnastics Centre, the site of the gymnastics competition, is a temporary venue, eventually to be replaced with a 12,000 seat sports arena. That explains the unfinished wood seats which make this look like the worlds biggest (and most complicated) IKEA set.

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