Let The Games Begin!

By on July 28, 2012

photo by Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

With a masterful artsy performance, a skydiving entrance from the Queen of England and James Bond (Daniel Craig), Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) taking center stage with a musical performance, amazing pyrotechnics and finally a speedboat with David Beckham bringing in the flame the 2012 Olympics began Friday night in London. We all know the games are hugely important, but other than the Morgan Freeman credit card commercials what is it we simply can’t miss?

Men’s Basketball
Dream Team” vs. this year’s team: we’ve beat it to death, I know. But don’t just watch this team to see if Kobe Bryant and Lebron James can back up their claim to be better than the original 1992 “Dream Team”. There’s no guarantee the 2012 team will waltz to a gold medal. The rest of the world is much better at basketball than it was in Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley’s day. People forget how the Chinese team had flashes of brilliance against the U.S. in 2008. Although it’s been forgotten, the Spanish team gave the U.S. fits in Beijing in the gold medal game with the emergence of Ricky Rubio and the brilliance of the Gasol brothers. Gold normally seems like a forgone conclusion for the U.S., but this year you may want to keep your eyes on the Men’s Basketball team.

Women’s Basketball
As dominant as Men’s Basketball is at the Olympics, they are second to the recent dominance of the U.S. Women’s team. OK, so part of it comes down to the concentration of skill in the sport. Since 1996, there have been only four different medal-winning countries. The U.S. has won every gold medal since ’96 (four) and have six gold medals of the nine Olympics with Women’s Basketball. Since 2000 it has been the U.S. and Australia in the gold medal game (Brazil won bronze in 2000 and Russia in 2004 and 2008). Although the women’s team should be as dominant (if not more than) the men’s team, it’s always nice to see almost a guaranteed gold medal. If that doesn’t captivate you, there’s always the gorgeous Candace Parker to hold your interest.

Swimming
Who can forget Michael Phelps breaking world records en route to eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008? The most unforgettable of those eight medals was in a race Phelps didn’t even finish. The 4×100-meter Freestyle in Beijing was without a doubt the most exciting swimming race I’ve ever seen. However, this year isn’t all about Phelps’ pursuit of history. This year is about Ryan Lochte trying to lap Phelps and take the American swimming torch from Phelps. Lochte, who went to the University of Florida, beat Phelps in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2011 World Championships and is poised to have a great Olympics. Expect the relay teams with Phelps and Lochte to dominate and enjoy the two best swimmers in the world competing in stars and stripes.

Women’s Soccer
Get used to hearing “football” if you plan on tuning in for some soccer. Don’t let our dispute of the name of the world’s most popular sport turn you off. If you’re a soccer fan the women’s team is the one you want to follow. As good as the men’s team is, the women’s team is not only poised for a medal run, but could walk away from London with a gold medal. The Women’s Soccer team won silver at the World Cup in 2011 and is ready to be even better at the Olympics. University of Florida alum Abby Wambach, who won an ESPY for her header against Brazil in 2011 to force penalty kicks, is perhaps the most dominant woman soccer player in the world. Although Brazil’s Marta is definitely the most skilled, Wambach is bigger and stronger than any other player at 5’11”. If the imposing size of Wambach doesn’t make you want to watch, then the beautiful and talented Hope Solo will get you. Solo is arguably the best woman goalie in the world and is ready to show the world that her stunning beauty is only rivaled by her breath-taking skill.

Track and Field
The other sports I mentioned are because of America’s chances to win gold. Track and Field has its potential gold medalists with Lolo Jones, Allyson Felix and Tyson Gay, but those aren’t the real superstars. The aptly-named sprinter Usain Bolt is once again the focus of the sprinting world. Bolt is not a focus because he’ll backpedal to another gold, but because he has competition—from his own countryman. Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake beat Bolt in the 100-meter sprint at the Jamaican Olympic Trials earlier this year. Who would think that the reign of the smooth-running Bolt could come to an end at the hands of a fellow Jamaican? I guess the only thing Bolt could say if he loses to Blake is “One Love”.

The Olympics are a time to celebrate humanity being able to come together for 16 days and marvel in athletics. Even if you’re a die-hard (Americam) football guy who loves nothing else, give the Olympics a chance. As great as the events themselves are, it’s really about the pageantry of it all and celebrating humanity. It’s a big world out there and everyone is tuned in. Everyone wants to know what will happen next: the world is watching!

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