As some of you may have figured out, I love the Olympic Games. My entire sports-viewing revolves around watching it every two years. There is just something about the atmosphere. Something about watching Canada’s best high-performance athletes get centre-stage for one day of their lives. So, for those who don’t follow the buildup to the Olympics as close as I do, here are the ten events I’m looking forward to most. Some of them are because of the venue. Some because of the athletes. Some both. Some entirely different reasons. They are in no particular order.
I’ll start off with a song you will apparently hear during the Opening Ceremony as part of the soundtrack tomorrow night.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSLPbl8Nigk]
- The Men’s 100m final. Need I say anymore? I actually prefer the 200m race myself, but the 100m final is on a Sunday evening (August 5 just after 4:45pm ET, for those wondering). Usain Bolt was one of the stars of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. However, his Jamaican countrymate Johan Blake has challenged him so far in 2012. Can Bolt make it back-to-back 100m Olympic golds?
- Women’s mountain biking. This might seem like an odd choice when put alongside the other events on the schedule. However, there is a story behind it. One of the gold medal favourites is Catharine Pendrel. She is originally from Harvey Station, New Brunswick (which is about a one hour drive from where I live). Check out her bio. She is one of Canada’s strongest medal contenders. The women’s mountain bike race is on Saturday August 11.
- The men’s eights rowing final. I quickly became a fan of rowing during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, waking up early to watch it many mornings. I followed the same routine in Beijing. The highlight of the rowing week is the men’s eights final. Canada is the defending Olympic champion. The final goes on Wednesday August 1 around 7:30am ET. Try to catch it before you leave for work, if you get the chance.
- Tennis. The All England Club at Wimbledon is the venue. The most historic tennis club in the world. Canada’s Milos Raonic is one of the sports young stars. A much-talked about Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal matchup on Centre Court won’t happen as Nadal has withdrawn to injury. The men’s final on Sunday August 5 is still one of the highlights of The Games, especially if Brit Andy Murray returns to a Centre Court Sunday final at Wimbledon just a month after losing to Federer at The Championships.
- Men’s football final. This game is everything that is traditional about English football. A 3:00pm local start on a Saturday afternoon (August 11) at Wembley Stadium. It is the type of game football dreams are made of in the country the sport was invented. Of course one thing about Olympic football beats tradition upside the head. English and Welsh players will play side-by-side on Team GB. After a 1-1 draw this afternoon, will they make the final?
- Men’s basketball final. Are Durant, Kobe, Paul and Lebron the key make-up of the Dream Team 2.0? Probably not. Is there anything more fun than watching them play together? Again, probably not. The Americans should make the final. The question is who will they face? Spain’s probably got the best team.
- Men’s 200m IM final. Michael Phelps is only swimming six events in London, so he can’t even tie his record of eight medals. Because of that, I’ll go with the individual event that he will likely face the toughest challenge in if he wants to somehow match the six gold medals he won in Athens. His top rival Ryan Lochte beat him in this event at the World Championships last year. The final is on Thursday August 2 around 3:15pm ET.
- Women’s trampoline. Karen Cockburn is the queen of trampoline at the Olympics, having won a medal at all three Games since it became an Olympic sport in Sydney. Rosannagh MacLennan won a silver at the World Championships last year. This is one of the few events where Canada could win two medals. It takes place on Saturday August 4.
- Equestrian jumping final. Eric Lamaze was one of the great Canadian stories in Beijing, overcoming cocaine addiction to win on his horse Hickstead. He has to overcome another major hurdle after Hickstead died last November. Can Lamaze win on a new horse? Oh, and by the way, the Canadian side-story of show jumping is Ian Millar, who will set a record competing in his 10th Olympic Games (his first were Munich in 1972). Millar won his first Olympic medal in team jumping in 2008.
- The “Best of British” concert. If there is one thing Britain does better than sports, it is music. Damon Albarn, of Blur, is the curator of the concert. Aside from Blur, New Order and The Specials, the setlist has been kept tightly under wrap. Here are some suggestions: The Stone Roses (they just re-formed and it’s hard to describe how huge they are in Britain), Elton John, Roger Waters and Kasabian. And maybe a Gallagher.