Competitions in synchronized swimming remain very popular and since 1984 this sport has been included in Olympic program. But in fact the modern look and modern rules of synchronized swimming differ significantly from those that were in the beginning.
It all started in the 19th century (although different studies show that in ancient Greece there was a sort of performance that looked just like synchronized swimming). And at the time only men performed in that sport and it looked more like a ballet on water. All the programs were built on elements of lifesaving program. And the first program that was pretty close to modern performances occurred in Canada in the year 1920. At that time women teams took part in such performance and it is the women's team that in fact brought popularity to the sport.
Soon the sport of synchronized swimming became widely known in the USA. There was soon an increase in the number of different competitions where swimmers could perform. And all that made modern synchronized swimming very popular all over the world. During this development period sport became very athletic and technical. Later music was also added to performance. In 1984, synchronized swimming became an Olympic sport.
Synchronized swimming competitions differ in different countries all over the globe. But in most cases all the competitions can be divided into solo, duet and team programs. Solo competitions are rare in many courtiers and that kind of synchronized swimming is not included into Olympic program.
Duet performances usually include so-called technical and free routines. Technical routine has pretty rigid requirements and consists only of predefined set of movements. The only variable thing here is the music that swimmers perform with. There is a synchronized swimming committee that sets all the rules and requirements for the technical part of synchronized swimming competitions each four years. Free routine of duet performances comes only after technical part. And team competitions contain only free routine.
Unlike the technical part free routine has no such rigid restrictions. Swimmers can build their own program with free routine. This is the routine with creativity and flair that allows swimmers to express their skill and artistic abilities. But it is also desirable to have complex elements in free program. Pretty complex movements (for instance "jumps" when team members push other member out of the water) that look fantastic are included in programs very often. And of course for innovative movements, the team will get additional point from judges.
Judging and scoring system is pretty complex with synchronized swimming. The technical part is not that hard to score as long as all the movements are predefined. But when it comes to free routine things get much more complex. There is even a special judge that critiques the choreography of the team. Usually it is called artistic impression - that is probably the hardest part for judges to scrutinize. But even for this part there are certain rules. According to these rules judges set points to swimmers. And these points are summarized eventually to give the total score of the team.