The Summer Olympics 2012 have turned into an athletic monster. In contrast to the first modern Olympics, the 1896 Athens Games that had 241 participants from 14 countries competing in 43 events, the 2012 London Games will have close to 10,500 athletes from 200-plus nations going for gold in 302 contests.
More than 1,000 hours will be televised over as many as eight channels (not counting thousands of hours streamed live by NBCOlympics.com). To help a Central Texas viewer sort it out, here's a highlights guide:
Day 1: Friday
Opening Ceremony: The Brits do spectacle well. They don't have the bottomless budget the Chinese had in Beijing, but Oscar Award-winning director Danny Boyle will put a dazzling touch on showcasing culture and sport in Great Britain. It being England, you know the music will be first rate.
Day 2: Saturday
Swimming: London makes a big splash on the first day medals are handed out with the superstar rivalry of Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley. Don't be surprised if Lochte is the golden boy in this one. ... The women's side will have the first Team USA vs. Australia showdown in the 400 freestyle relay.
Also: The host country has a good chance to score its first gold as British cyclist Mark Cavendish is favored in the road race. ... The men's team gymnastics competition opens. ... The hallowed grounds of Wimbledon will spring back to life with the start of tennis. Austin's Andy Roddick is playing.
Day 3: Sun., July 29
Shooting: Kim Rhode looks to become the first U.S. athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympics. She is favored in skeet after taking the silver at Beijing.
Also: Texas ex Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Team USA open against Spurs star Tony Parker and France. ... Women's gymnastics team competition holds its preliminaries.
Day 4: Mon., July 30
Swimming: Missy "The Missile" Franklin, a 17-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch Californian with size 13 feet, competes in the first of her seven events: the 100 backstroke.
Also: Men's team gymnastics is decided: It could go Japan, China, USA. ... In volleyball, Texas ex Destiny Hooker and the U.S. face reigning champ Brazil.
Day 5: Tue., July 31
Gymnastics: The highly touted U.S. women are favored for the team gold over Romania and Russia.
Also: Phelps is king of the 200 fly. ... Allison Schmitt and Franklin will battle in the 200 free.
Day 6: Wed., Aug. 1
Gymnastics: John Orozco and Danell Leyva lead the U.S. men into the all-around final, where Japan's Kohei Uchimura is favored.
Also: Beach volleyball begins on a makeshift court near Buckingham Palace.
Day 7: Thu., Aug. 2
Gymnastics: U.S. stars Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas take on Russia's Viktoria Komova for the women's all-around title.
Also: Phelps vs. Lochte II in the pool.
They go H2H in the 200 IM. ... For a break from the mainstream, check out women's archery, men's canoe and women's fencing.
Day 8: Fri., Aug. 3
Swimming: Missy The Missile is back for her marquee event, the 200 backstroke. ... Phelps is the man for the men's 100 butterfly.
Also: Rowing has four medal events.
Day 9, Sat., Aug. 4
Track & field: The women's 100-meter final between Jamaicans' Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown and the USA's Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter wil be the show. ... Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin hopes to medal in the long jump.
Also: Serena Williams could be going for her first Olympic singles gold. ... Swimming wraps up with the 400 medley relays.
Day 10: Sun., Aug. 5
Track & field: The fastest man on the planet will be settled. Is it still Usain Bolt? Or his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake?
Or Americans' Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin. The 100-meter finals will be over in about 9 1/2 seconds.
Also: Gymnast McKayla Maroney of the U.S. could be golden in the women's vault. ... Men's tennis final.
Day 11: Mon., Aug. 6
Track & field: LaShawn Merritt is the 400 hurdles pick, but all eyes will be on Oscar "The Blade Runner" Pistorius, the South African double amputee making history just by competing.
Also: Women's soccer semifinals. ... Lots of sailing, shooting and wrestling.
Day 12: Tue., Aug. 7
Gymnastics: Big closing night with women's beam and floor exercise (Aly Raisman of the U.S. is a medal pick) and men's high bar and parallel bars.
Also: Men's soccer semifinals at Wembley and Old Trafford. Mexico is a dark horse. You can book Brazil, with young prodigy Neymar, into the semis. ... Women's basketball quarterfinals.
Day 13: Wed., Aug. 8
Track & field: Huge night. The men's 110 hurdles has an incredible field, headlined by Liu Xiang of China.
He's far from a lock, though, with native Texan Jason Richardson, American teammate Aries Merritt and Cuban world record-holder Dayron Robles in the competition.
Austin's Sanya Richards-Ross should be the star of stars in the women's 400. ... The women's 200 has Felix of the U.S. vs. the Jamaicans.
Also: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings gun for their third straight gold in beach volleyball.
Day 14: Thu., Aug. 9
Soccer: Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach intend on playing for the gold at Wembley. Japan or Brazil plan on spoiling their plans.
Also: Jamaicans' Bolt and Blake run the 200 finals. ... American world record-holder Ashton Eaton and Texas ex Trey Hardee aim are well worth watching as the decathlon wraps up. ... Women's basketball and volleyball semifinals.
Day 15: Fri., Aug. 10
Taekwondo: Steven Lopez, whose Houston family has made a living winning Olympic medals, eyes the 176-pound final.
The five-time world titleist tries to medal in his fourth Games.
Also: Jordan Burroughs, a former Big 12 wrestling champ at Nebraska, is a favorite in the 163-pound class. ... Men's basketball semifinals. ... Women's 400 relay, another USA vs. Jamaica showdown.
Day 16: Sat., Aug. 11
Team night: Gold-medal games in men's soccer, women's basketball and volleyball. Brazil, a five-time World Cup champ that has never won the Olympic gold, is a slight soccer favorite over Spain. Great Britain hopes to steal the show. U.S. women's hoops should romp.
Also: Track closes with the exciting men's 400 relay, women's 1,600 relay and women's 800.
Day 17: Sun., Aug. 12
Basketball: The U.S. collection of NBA stars aims to prove it's Dream Team-worthy in the men's final.
Also: Men's marathon (the Kenyans rule), boxing finals, cycling and, of course, the closing ceremony.
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