By Nick Craddock
After years of planning and preparation, the world’s eyes are on London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
London 2012 represents the 30th edition of the Games (that’s including both the Summer and Winter Games) and will certainly represent some of the best drama sports has to offer. Just as the city of London has been preparing for many years, so, too, have the more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations expected to compete over the course of 16 days.
After the British attempt to top the Chinese spectacle of 2008 in Beijing at tonight’s Opening Ceremony, here are some storylines to follow during the Games:
1. Michael Phelps—The soon-to-be star of Full Medal Jacket
An awkward and lanky teenager at his first Games in 2000 in Sydney, Phelps, now just awkward and lanky, has since become a staple on the podium at the Olympic Games and our television screens every four years. Phelps has already won 16 medals in his career, including 14 golds, and he will likely break the record (18) for most medals won by an Olympian at what he has called his last Games. No doubt, Phelps will once again capitalize off his performances in the pool with more sponsorship deals and celebrity-like gigs. I’ll tolerate his face being everywhere the next few weeks as long as interviews with his mother—whom I glad isn’t my mom because she would’ve robbed me of my childhood to achieve Olympic glory (I’ll pass, thank you)—are kept to a minimum. I get it, television producers, they love each other and she was critical to his development as a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. No more sappy feature pieces.
2. Men’s Soccer—Getting back to British Empirical roots: A unified Great Britain
An Olympic Games on the Isle of Great Britain wouldn’t be complete without focus on the soccer competition, would it? What makes this soccer competition particularly unique is that FIFA, the governing body of professional soccer, has granted the four home nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England) the chance to compete under the unified flag of Great Britain, birthplace of the sport, in the soccer competitions (the first time this has occurred since the 1960 Games). Importantly, this temporary unification will not carry with it any adverse consequences on the eligibility of players for their respective countries in future FIFA competitions. Whether the team dons a jersey with the Union Jack on it or not, the expectations are high, and the locals will be clamoring to see the first major international soccer title hoisted in England since the 1966 World Cup.
3. Men’s Basketball—Dream Team, Redeem Team and now the…?
If the United States does not win the gold medal, the team’s trip to London should and will be considered a FAILURE. The world’s talent level may be improving, but the other teams don’t boast multiple perennial NBA all-stars. No pressure, LeBron and Co.
4. Men’s Tennis—The grass has been sufficiently watered with rain and tears
The All England Club, even after the installation of Centre Court’s retractable roof in 2009, is no stranger to rain bucketing down on the courts for breakfast at Wimbledon. In fact, torrential downpours were commonplace a few weeks during this year’s edition of Wimbledon casting doubt on just how summery these Games might be. In this same time the typical English weather provided waterworks for the grass courts, Scotsman Andy Murray delivered a moving speech after losing the final to Roger Federer, bringing many watching live and on television to tears. With world number three Rafael Nadal withdrawing from the Games, Murray has a great chance to be on the podium and may even have his countrymen crying for joy after another showdown on Centre Court this time around.
5. Women’s Gymnastics—Who will be the next young star to Beam on the podium?
Shawn Johnson, the all-around silver medalist four years ago, retired. Nastia Liukin, the all-around gold medalist four years ago, failed to qualify after a disastrous Olympic Trials. Such is the short shelf life of a gymnast, whose window of opportunity for glory slams shut at an age most of us are just leaving for college. No longer able to defend their positions on the podium, Johnson and Liukin instead leave us with the memory of their unforgettable performances in Bounty and Subway commercials, respectively. And now enter a new crop of young ladies, many of whom probably don’t remember when Pokemon was the popular fad among the kids. My (rather) uneducated pick for the U.S.A.’s best chance at all-around gold: Jordyn Wieber.
6. Women’s Beach Volleyball—Bigger names, bigger trophy case?
Bikinis. Women. Bikinis. I shouldn’t have to convince any red-blooded males why it is imperative to watch this thrilling sport. Don’t be fooled by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings lengthier names, as both have wed and started the journey toward family life; however, their dominance on the sand doesn’t seem to be changing like their lifestyles. Two of the more iconic Olympic athletes, these two women will serve and volley for their third straight Olympic gold medal.
7. Men’s 100m—Usain you are the fastest? What makes you say that?
Ironic how one of the more popular events at the Olympics happens to be competed for only a matter of seconds. Nevertheless, the title of World’s Fastest Man is a punchy title to hold and it will likely go to Jamaican Usain Bolt or his fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake. As big as Bolt’s ego was at the last Games was his blistering speed, as Bolt cruised to a world record-setting performance in Beijing (in both the 100m and 200m). Recently, at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Blake ousted his training partner, Bolt, for first place, drawing into question whether Bolt can repeat his performance from four years ago. Whether Blake or Bolt (or even former world-record holder Asafa Powell for that matter!) posts the best time for Jamaica, the rest of world will be lucky in trying to take away sprinting supremacy from the Reggae Boys.
8. Women’s Marathon—Few can run 26.2 miles, even fewer can watch someone run 26.2 miles
Paula Radcliffe is the current world record holder in the marathon and this English runner and former BBC Sports Personality of the Year will look to cap a lengthy career in distance running with a gold on her home turf. Not only has Radcliffe participated and completed numerous marathons, she’s won quite a few of them. It makes my legs hurt just thinking about her runs.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.