First Olympic Appearance: 1904 (platform), 1908 (springboard)
by John Gettings and Mark Zurlo
Although cliff diving dates back to the Ancient Olympic games, it was European gymnasts, practicing their routines over water at the beach in the early 1800s, that we can thank for inspiring one of the Olympics' most-watched events.
The diving finals at Atlanta in 1996 were watched on television by more households than either the Rose Bowl or the NCAA men's basketball final that year.
The newest diving event, synchronized diving, debuted at the 2000 games. Based on an idea borrowed from synchronized swimming, two divers dive simultaneously for a combined score. Their dives are scored by a panel of nine judges—Four score technical merit while the other five score the synchronization of the dives. These judges carefully watch to make sure the divers mirror each other in elevation, angle, and pool entry.
All Divers are required to attempt a set number of dives that must be selected from each of the main diving groups. The springboard (3m high) competition consists of five groups: front, back, reverse, inward and twisting. The platform (10m high) competition includes all of those plus the arm-stand dive. Each dive is given a degree of difficulty rating which takes into account all the twists, turns, and flips the diver completes, and compares that to other dives.
The Beijing diving competition, along with the other swimming events, will be held at the state-of-the-art National Aquatic Center, or "Water Cube." The giant rectangular structure was built mainly of a plastic known as ETFE, which allows sunlight and heat to easily enter the interior of the structure, reducing energy costs. The venue will hold 17,000 spectators during the games, after which the seating capacity will be reduced to 6,000 and the space will continue to be used as a world class aquatic center.