THE SKINNY: "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle is overseeing the mega-event at the new 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. Boyle has already said there's no competing with Beijing's memorable opening from 2008. Who will light the Olympic cauldron? Bookmaker William Hill installed Steve Redgrave as the 6-4 favorite. Redgrave, a rower, won a British record five Olympic gold medals from 1984 to 2000. He was followed in the odds by cyclist Chris Hoy (8-1), retired runners Kelly Holmes and Sebastian Coe (10-1) and the reigning monarch of the day (16-1).
THE SKINNY: The first British gold of the Games could come on the streets of London (with Buckingham Palace as a backdrop). Mark Cavendish, of the Isle of Man, is the world's best sprinter, evidenced by his 20 career Tour de France stage wins. If the race isn't too selective and a chaotic sprint finish ensues, Cavendish has to be the favorite.
ALSO: Swimming -- Women's 4x100 Freestyle Relay: If Dara Torres can make her sixth Olympic team at age 45, she will likely be on this relay, perhaps on the anchor leg as she was in 2008. The U.S. took silver in Beijing and hasn't won this race at the Olympics since 2000. Watch out for the Netherlands and Australia.
THE SKINNY: It'll be nearly impossible to top the excitement of 2008, when Jason Lezak chased down France's Alain Bernard to steal gold for the U.S. and keep Michael Phelps' eight-for-eight bid alive. Bernard and the French should be back, and so might Lezak at age 36. The U.S. team could potentially include Phelps, Lezak, Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian, the reigning U.S. champion in the 100.
ALSO: Swimming -- Women's 400 Freestyle: The host country's biggest swim star is Rebecca Adlington. Consider her the 21st century Janet Evans. Adlington won the 400 and 800 free at the 2008 Olympics, becoming Britain's first swimming gold medalist since 1988. Adlington settled for bronze and silver in this event at the last two world championships. Italian Federica Pellegrini won both world titles and stands in her way.
THE SKINNY: Race of the Century, Part II? Well, only if Ian Thorpe's comeback is successful. That's a big IF, but if so, we could be treated to the first duel between Thorpe and Phelps since the 2004 Olympics, when Thorpe beat a then-19-year-old Phelps in The Race of the Century. It's possible Phelps pockets his 18th career Olympic medal here, tying Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most in Olympic history. Natalie Coughlin also goes for her third straight gold in her trademark event, the 100 backstroke, where she may be chased by 17-year-old American Missy Franklin.
ALSO: Gymnastics -- Men's Team Final: The U.S. men aim for their third straight medal in the event, which is shocking considering they previously hadn't medaled at a non-boycotted Games since 1932. Jonathan Horton and perhaps Paul Hamm, attempting his second comeback, will lead the U.S. China and Japan, the last two Olympic champions, will be strong.
THE SKINNY: Two of Phelps' best shots at gold come on what might be the night he passes Latynina for the most Olympic medals of alltime. The 200 fly was the only event Phelps swam as a 15-year-old in 2000, finishing fifth. He dominated after those Games, winning about 60 straight races before hiccups this year. The Americans haven't lost the 4x200 freestyle relay at a major international meet in eight years and should be strong favorites with Lochte and Phelps anchoring.
ALSO: Gymnastics -- Women's Team Final: The U.S. women have medaled at five straight Games, but only the 1996 Magnificent Seven were golden. In the constantly changing sport, it's hard to predict the U.S. team a year out. World silver medalist Rebecca Bross is in great shape to make her first Olympics, and 2008 members Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Alicia Sacramone could also be there. Competition will come from the usual suspects: 2004 Olympic champion Romania, 2008 Olympic champion China and 2009 world champion Russia.
THE SKINNY: The favorite is clear: Japan's Kohei Uchimura, who won the 2010 world championship by 2.3 points, the same margin that separated second place from 12th place. If Uchimura is not in dominant form, keep an eye on Horton, the 2010 world bronze medalist.
ALSO: Swimming -- Men's 200 Breaststroke: Japan's Kosuke Kitajima has the opportunity in London to achieve an astonishing feat -- sweeping the breaststrokes in three straight Olympic Games. American Eric Shanteau, a cancer survivor, will try to stop him in this longer distance.
THE SKINNY: The most prestigious medal in the sport is planted in Plano, Texas, the site where 2004 (Carly Patterson) and 2008 (Liukin) champions trained. Next in the Plano pipeline is Bross, 18, who won silver and bronze at the last two world championships. The 2010 world champion, Aliya Mustafina of Russia, is recovering from knee surgery. Watch out for Russian Viktoria Komova and American Jordyn Wieber, both 16 and rising from junior to senior competition this year.
ALSO: Swimming -- Men's 200 Individual Medley: Phelps and Lochte went head to head in this event in 2004 and 2008 with Phelps prevailing both times. Since Beijing, Lochte has taken the mantle of world's best swimmer from Phelps. The result of this race -- the mini decathlon of swimming encompassing all four strokes -- may determine in the eyes of many if Phelps is finishing his Olympic career on top, or if he indeed has been knocked off his perch for good.
THE SKINNY: This could be Phelps' final individual Olympic race, an event he summoned late comebacks to win in 2004 over Ian Crocker and 2008 over Serb Milorad Cavic. Phelps outdueled Cavic again at the 2009 world championships and won the 100 fly at the biggest meet of 2010, the Pan Pacific Championships.
ALSO: Track Cycling -- Men's Team Pursuit: Dubbed the "king of all track events" by the Daily Telegraph, the eyes of Britain will gaze upon a quartet likely anchored by Bradley Wiggins, who may become the host country's most decorated Olympian ever at these Games. The Brits set world records in the semifinals and finals in winning gold in 2008, but rival Australia took the 2010 and 2011 world championships.
THE SKINNY: Jamaica swept the women's 100 in 2008, and no American has won it since
Marion Jones in 2000. A 32-year-old Olympic rookie could change all that. American Carmelita Jeter owns the three fastest times since the Beijing Olympics and is the only woman other than Jones and Florence Griffith-Joyner to break 10.70.
ALSO: Swimming -- Men's 4x100 Medley Relay: Peg this as the final Olympic swim of Phelps' career. His place is on the third leg and in his signature stroke, the butterfly. The U.S. hasn't lost this event since it was added to the Olympic program in 1960. Australia could pose a threat.
THE SKINNY: Usain Bolt set consecutive world records of 9.69 and 9.58 seconds at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 world championships, but his invincibility is gone. Tyson Gay ended his two-year winning streak in August 2010, and Bolt's best time in three races this year is 9.88. But Gay underwent season-ending hip surgery in June, adding to his list of injuries and clouding his Olympic prospects.
ALSO: Tennis -- Men's Final: Roger Federer wants his first individual Olympic medal. Rafael Nadal is the defending Olympic champion. Andy Murray is the home favorite. Did we mention they'll be playing at Wimbledon Centre Court?
THE SKINNY: 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner should be there. 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt would like to be there, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide his fate after his drug suspension in 2010. Merritt tested positive for a banned substance found in a male-enhancement product.
ALSO: Gymnastics -- Women's Uneven Bars: This gold got away from Liukin in 2008, the one she lost in a tiebreaker to China's He Kexin. If Liukin returns for 2012 (she has yet to decide on a comeback), you can bet she'll be targeting this event final. Liukin's training partner Bross could also medal here.
THE SKINNY: The last two Olympics saw a favorite clip a hurdle and not medal -- Perdita Felicien on the first hurdle in 2004 and Lolo Jones on the next-to-last hurdle in 2008. Americans have won the last two Olympic titles (Joanna Hayes, Dawn Harper), and a three-peat is very possible. Three of the four fastest women in the world this year are Americans, led by U.S. champion Kellie Wells.
ALSO: Diving -- Men's Springboard: In no surprise, Chinese have won the last four Olympic titles. The best Western hopes are Canadian Alexandre Despatie and American Troy Dumais, who have six Olympics between them. Dumais, 31, is the only U.S. man to win an individual springboard medal at a major international meet since the 1996 Olympics.
THE SKINNY: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh became the first back-to-back Olympic champions in the young sport in Beijing, and it looks like they'll make another (final?) run in London. Since Beijing, May-Treanor ruptured an Achilles tendon on "Dancing With the Stars" (since recovered), Walsh had two baby boys and in their most publicized match, they faced Shaq on his TV show. The reigning world champs from Brazil are their biggest obstacle.
ALSO: Track And Field -- Men's 110 Hurdles: Two hundredths of a second separate the three fastest performers of all time: 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles (12.87 seconds), 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang (12.88) and American record holder David Oliver (12.89). If all three make the final, this could be the closest sprint of the Games.
THE SKINNY: The 200 is the more dominant of Bolt's two sprints. He edged Michael Johnson's world record in Beijing and lowered it again to 19.19 at the 2009 world championships. Gay has been focusing more on the 100, making Bolt an even bigger favorite. The Jamaican owns five of the six fastest times since Beijing (the other being Gay two years ago), but his 2011 best is merely 19.86.
ALSO: Track And Field -- Decathlon: The competition to determine the world's greatest athlete concludes with the latter five events. An American battle has been shaping up between 2008 Olympic champion Bryan Clay, 2009 world champion Trey Hardee and 2011 U.S. champion Ashton Eaton. Clay and Hardee exchanged the world-leading point total the last few years until Eaton, 23, surged ahead to win the U.S. title in June.
THE SKINNY: The U.S. women have been cursed in the relay -- slipping to third despite Marion Jones anchoring in 2000 and botching baton handoffs in 2004 and 2008. The Jamaicans, led by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, also had passing problems and failed to medal in 2008. They'll be loaded and looking for redemption as well.
ALSO: Wrestling -- Men's 55kg Freestyle Final: The son of illegal immigrants from Mexico, Henry Cejudo won the only gold for the U.S. grapplers in 2008, at age 21 the youngest American Olympic wrestling champion ever. After penning his autobiography, Cejudo wrestled for the first time in nearly three years this May in the same weight class he entered in Beijing. He seems to be on the road back.
THE SKINNY: Plenty of storylines here. China will want to reclaim gold in the only diving event it didn't win in 2008. Defending will be Aussie Matthew Mitcham, whose immediate Beijing celebration with his male partner was controversially not shown by NBC. Britain's best diver, Tom Daley, is the 2009 world champion on the platform (you may remember Daley's seventh-place performance as an adorable 14-year-old in Beijing). Watch out for rising American David Boudia, aiming for the first U.S. platform gold since Greg Louganis in 1988.
ALSO: Track And Field -- Men's 4x100 Relay: The U.S. men haven't won since 2000. Getting the gold back will be daunting going up against Jamaica, which could field a team of four sprinters who have run under 9.8 seconds, including Bolt. Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100-meter champ back from a doping suspension, may be on the U.S. men's team. The world's best distance runner in recent years, Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, goes for repeat gold in the 5,000 as well.
THE SKINNY: The only question here is who will be playing for silver, right? Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his 2008 staff are on board, as is USA basketball chair Jerry Colangelo. The roster will certainly look at least a little different since Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant were not on the 2008 Redeem Team. Spain (Pau Gasol) and Argentina (Manu Ginobili) are in the mix for minor medals.
ALSO: Track And Field -- Men's Marathon: There will be a new Olympic champion following the stunning death of Olympic record holder Sammy Wanjiru in May. It could mark the final Olympic race for marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, who will be 39 and hopes to run the 26.2-mile event for the first time at the Games. The men's gold-medal match in volleyball, won by the U.S. in 2008, is also on the docket for the final day of the Games.
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