With hundreds of events, the games can overwhelm even the most masochistic viewers. Here, a guide to the matchups you won't want to miss
Let the television viewing begin! With an over-the-top Opening Ceremony on Friday, London kicked off the 2012 Summer Games, during which more than 10,000 athletes will compete for some 300 gold medals before the games end on Aug. 12. Of course, with so many events vying for your attention over the next few weeks, the Olympics can be more than a little overwhelming. What's a busy sports fan to do? Here, seven of the Olympic showdowns that you may want to plan your life around:
1. Swimming: Michael Phelps (USA) vs. Ryan Lochte (USA)
Michael Phelps, the veteran swimming superstar who already boasts a record 14 gold medals, will go head-to-head with the sport's newest darling, Ryan Lochte, on Saturday. In a match-up that coaches are calling a "spectator's dream," the two American teammates will face off in the 400-meter individual medley, "a grueling race encompassing all four strokes," says the Associated Press. While Phelps may have more hardware than any other Olympian in history, Lochte is the defending world champion, and defeated Phelps "rather easily" at the U.S. trials last month. Tune in: Qualifying race: Saturday, July 28, 5 a.m. EST. Final race: Saturday, July 28, 2:30 p.m. EST.
2. Track and field: Usain Bolt (Jamaica) vs. Yohan Blake (Jamaica)
Bolt, "the fastest man the world has seen," is set to go up against his teammate in two epic sprints, says Britain's The Independent: The 100m and 200m. The races are Bolt's to lose, although the man who once seemed unbeatable has "shown signs of being human after all since his stunningly brilliant double triumph in Beijing." Blake, Bolt's 22-year-old training partner, beat Bolt twice in Jamaican trials, and the 6'5" Bolt recently made waves when he said he's been hampered by a bad back. Tune in: 100m preliminaries: Saturday, Aug. 4, 5 a.m. EST. 100m semifinals: Sunday, Aug. 5, 2:45 p.m. EST. 100m finals: Sunday, Aug. 5, 4:50 p.m. EST. 200m preliminaries: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 6:50 a.m. EST. 200m semifinals: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 3:10 p.m. EST. 200m final: Thursday, Aug. 9, 3:55 p.m. EST.
3. Men's basketball: USA vs. Spain
A star-studded potential rematch of 2008's gold medal game would pit Team USA's Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Co. against Spain's formidable Gasol brothers, Marc and Pau. Mighty Team USA trounced its rival 100-78 in an exhibition match, but Spain's subsequent addition of shot-blocking power forward Serge Ibaka may spell bad news for America's injury-beset front line, whose only true center is reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. "If [Ibaka] can provide the same game-altering defensive presence that he did during the NBA regular season, then he will form a fearsome front line along with the Gasol brothers," says Paul Ables at Bleacher Report. Tune in: Gold medal game: Sunday, Aug. 12, 10 a.m. EST.
4. Women's gymnastics: Jordyn Wieber (USA) vs. Gabby Douglas (USA)
The way to many Olympic-loving Americans' hearts is "over the vault and across the balance beam," says USA Today. Jordyn Wieber, 16, is the reigning all-around world champion, but Gabby Douglas, also 16, edged her out in the Olympic trials. Now, they're set to go at it again, "teenager against teenager, to be queen of the mats in a sport where one mistake can mean ruin." Tune in: Thursday, Aug. 2, 11:30 a.m. EST.
5. Track and field: Allyson Felix (USA) vs. everyone else
The 26-year-old California native is already among "the most decorated sprinters in track and field history," says ABC News. With eight gold medals to her name, the track star "absolutely dominated" the 200-meter race during Olympic trials, running the fastest 200m in 14 years. Can anyone catch her in London?
Tune in: Round 1: Monday, Aug. 6, 2:20 p.m. EST. Semifinals: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 3:25 p.m. EST. Finals: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 4 p.m. EST.
6. Soccer: U.S. women vs. every other women's team
The American women's soccer team has "more firepower" than any other squad in the world. The team has already started its journey with a come-from-behind 4-2 win over France, in which superstar goalie Hope Solo let two quick goals sail past her early in the game. Despite that close call, Team USA is "definitely the one to beat," Summer Sanders tells ABC News.
Tune in: Vs. Columbia: Saturday, July 28, 12 p.m. EST. Vs. North Korea: Tuesday, July 31, 12:15 p.m. EST. Quarterfinals: Friday, Aug. 3, Time TBD. Semifinals: Monday, Aug. 6, Time TBD. Finals: Thursday, Aug. 9, 2:45 p.m. EST.
7. Women's tennis: Serena Williams (USA) vs. everyone else
The tennis star is poised for gold after a big victory at Wimbledon — the same venue where Olympic tennis will be held. Serena also has a rare opportunity to win three gold medals in a single Olympicss: Women's singles, women's doubles with sister Venus, and mixed doubles with up-and-coming men's star John Isner. "It's hard for tennis players to become major stories at the Olympics" when the sport's annual championships outweigh the games in importance, says CBS Sports, "but we like Serena's chances to make it happen anyway."
Tune in: First match: Saturday, July 28, 9 p.m. EST.
Other stories from this topic:
- Instant Guide: How did a blind archer set a world record at the Olympics?
- Fact Sheet: The insane junk-food diets of high-endurance Olympians
- In-depth briefing: London's Olympic regrets
- EssayThe last word: He said he was leaving. She ignored him.