If you arent careful, you can get tired of the Olympics. On television, they turn into a 17-day buffet of grandeur, tears, over-the-top music and frantic competition. You have to choose wisely unless you want to be overstuffed after the first weekend.
After covering four previous Olympic Games from start to finish three Summer, one Winter Ive learned a few things about the rhythms of the Games. If you want to pick your spots, here are a few events you dont want to miss.
One programming note: London is five hours ahead of Eastern time. NBC will basically show and/or stream online just about everything important live (check NBCSports.com for your personal programming details).
Then NBC will repackage the best stuff and gussy it up for a prime-time audience. The network will generally show the Olympics starting at 7 or 8 p.m. until midnight.
So theres no way to say exactly when an event will be telecast in prime-time -- even though in most cases it will have been over for hours. You can bet, though, that NBC will often tease to the best stuff repeatedly and then actually show it very late in the telecast. So Im mostly only listing days of the event here, not specific times.
FRIDAY, JULY 27
The Opening Ceremonies. Yes, they are overdone. Yes, they are a hodgepodge of interesting and outlandish, the boring and the beautiful. But with Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame running the show (and already running into some creative tension along the way with Olympic organizers), this one is guaranteed to be quite a spectacle. It will kick off NBCs prime-time coverage from 7:30 p.m.-midnight.
SATURDAY, JULY 28
Swimming, the mens 400 individual medley. American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have fashioned one of the best rivalries in these Games. They will have two head-to-head races in London the 400 IM and the 200 IM, and will likely finish 1-2 in both. The 400 IM in which each man performs the four swim strokes for 100 meters each -- will undoubtedly bring the crowd to its feet on the first night of competition in the pool.
SUNDAY, JULY 29
Swimming, the mens 4x100 freestyle relay. Four years ago, this event became famous when U.S. anchor Jason Lezak chased down the French in the last 50 meters to help Michael Phelps win his eight gold medals. This time, both Cullen Jones (of N.C. State and Charlotte) and Ricky Berens (Charlotte) could be competing for the U.S. in the final against stiff competition from Australia and Russia.
TUESDAY, JULY 31
Womens gymnastics, team final: Have you heard of Jordyn, Gabby, Aly, Kyla and McKayla? No? Well, get ready. Those are the first names of the five U.S. female gymnasts that graced the most recent Sports Illustrated cover. The U.S. first competes together in these Olympics, looking for its first team gold since Kerri Strug and the Magnificent Seven of 1996.
Womens gymnastics, individual final: Reigning world champion Jordyn Weiber, 17, was beaten by 16-year-old Gabby Douglas at the U.S. Trials. They could go 1-2 in the all-around competition, with Weibers meticulous preparation making for a great contrast with Douglass bubbly personality and high-flying leaps.
Swimming, mens 50 freestyle final: Cullen Jones pulled off an upset in the U.S. Olympic Trials, winning this splash-and-dash event (in which he also holds the American record, set in 2009). This is Jones best chance for an individual medal, but he will need to fight off Brazils Cesar Cielo and U.S. teammate Anthony Ervin.
Track, mens 100-meter final. Usain Bolt, the sports biggest star, will attempt in these Olympics to soar to the heights he did in 2008. But fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake beat Bolt in the 100 and 200 in Jamaicas Olympic Trials and is a real threat to defeat Bolt at least once in London.
Track, mens 200-meter final: Bolt and Blake, who are training partners, renew their friendly rivalry four nights later. Bolt is attempting to become the first person to win the 100 and 200 in consecutive Olympics.
Womens soccer final: In historic Wembley Stadium, this game will likely pit the United States (ranked No.1 in the world) against a country like Japan (which edged the U.S. in the 2011 Womens World Cup). The U.S. has won three golds and a silver in the four Olympic womens soccer tournaments.
Mens basketball final: The last day of the Olympics includes the gold-medal game that likely will feature coach Mike Krzyzewski leading the U.S. squad against a thorny challenger like Spain or Brazil.