What Is The Gymnastics Gala? Rio Will Include A Friendly Competition For The Olympians

The artistic gymnastics competitions at the Rio Olympics are now over, but the sport's biggest stars will have the chance to take to the floor one more time before the Games are done. The Olympic gymnastics gala is one of the most exciting events of the Games, because it's a low-stakes opportunity for the athletes to just have fun doing what they do best. The gala is a non-judged performance in which gymnasts show off their moves free from the pressure of competition, making it one of the best chances to see your favorite gymnasts in action.

A look at the 2008 gala in Beijing shows that it should be a wild ride in Rio. The event brought skills such as synchronized trampoline, tumbling, and acrobatics that aren't seen at the Olympics to a captive audience, and rounded out the show with performances from Chinese pop stars. It's great to watch the athletes have fun and go with the flow, and it's one last chance for audiences to cheer on their gymnasts before the end of the games.

This will be the first Olympic gymnastics gala in eight years — the London organizers couldn't get around the competition logistics to schedule it. It's a particularly difficult event to set up, because athletes from several disciplines (artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, etc) must have time in their rigorous competition schedules to perform, to say nothing of securing the venue and the non-athlete performers who will participate.

U.S. athletes are expected to take center stage in the gala in Rio, showing off the skills that earned the team its cache of medals. According to NBC, medalists Aly Raisman and Danell Leyva will participate on floor and parallel bars, respectively. Simone Biles is also reported to be performing, although NBC did not specify what she will be doing. Brazilian favorites Diego Hypolito, Arthur Zanetti, and Flavia Saraiva will also perform in their signature categories (floor, rings, and floor, respectively).

Although their competition in Rio has not yet begun, rhythmic gymnastics stars are also slated to perform at the gala, providing an opportunity to warm up in front of an audience before their real performances start. Two of the competition favorites, Anna Rizatdinova of Ukraine and Melitina Staniouta of Belarus, will show off their moves as a precursor to their contest.

The gymnastics gala is a must-see for any true gymnastics fan. And even if the sport isn't one of your favorites, it's worth the watch, because the athletes perform so differently than they do in competition. Catch the gala at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Aug. 17, because you definitely won't want to miss this beautiful and energetic ceremony.