Canoeing and kayaking as straight races, over flat water, were added to the Olympic schedule for Berlin in 1936. The white-water slalom events made a one-off appearance in 1972 and became a fixture in the schedule from 1992.
The canoe races are head-to-head, men-only contests for individuals or pairs, with the participants using a single-bladed paddle in a kneeling position.
The men's and women's kayak events are contested by individuals, pairs and teams of four who are seated and use paddles with blades at each end. Men race over 1,000 metres, women over 500m, and the London Games will see the introduction of 200m races for pairs and individuals.
Slalom events involve setting the best time through up to 25 gates on a white-water course. Competitors incur a penalty of 25 seconds for touching a gate and 50 seconds for missing a gate. In London there will be individual men's and women's kayak slalom competitions, while the men will also have individual and pairs canoe slalom events.
Twins Pavol and Peter Hochschorner of Slovakia made history in Beijing four years ago, when, at the age of only 28, they completed a golden hat-trick in the C2 slalom.
Birgit Fischer - who competed in the kayak singles, doubles and fours for East Germany and then the united Germany - won eight gold medals and four silvers in an Olympic career that began in Moscow in 1980 and lasted until Athens in 2004.
However, Sweden's Gert Fredriksson holds the record for the most individual gold medals with six, including five in the K1 — three over 1,000m and two in the now-defunct 10,000m — between 1948 and 1960.