Ready or not, athletes from around the world — minus those golfers scared of contracting the Zika virus and the Russians who were caught doping — are headed to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. For the next two weeks, the world will watch as the gold, silver and bronze medal winners are decided.
Though soccer matches kick things off Wednesday and Thursday, the Olympics officially start Friday with the opening ceremonies (four-hour time delay here in the Pacific time zone). A few of the crowd favorites, both events and athletes, to keep an eye on:
Defying the haters
Serena Williams again will show up to defend her women's tennis gold medal. Elite swimmer Michael Phelps, 31, is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 22 medals and counting. These two iconic American athletes have brought recognition and prestige to their respective sports; we want to see them out there as long as possible. Williams takes to the court starting Saturday, Aug. 6; Phelps' first event is the 200-meter butterfly: finals are Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 6:28 pm. (LJ)
Faster than lightning
He normally leaves them in the dust. When watching Usain Bolt run the men's 100 meters in 9.63 seconds (about 46 strides), it's as if he could stop mid-race, take a quick nap, and still win. This year, American Justin Gatlin, at 34 an Olympian for the third time, is on a quest to beat the record-smashing Jamaican; Bolt edged Gatlin by 0.01 seconds in a photo finish at last year's World Championships. Men's 100-meter final: Sunday. Aug. 14 at 6:25 pm. (LJ)
Sixteen individuals hailing from the Evergreen State are participating in the 2016 Olympics. Triathlete Greg Billington was born in Spokane, though he now lives in California. Klay Thompson, who played basketball at Washington State University, is a top scorer for the heavily favored USA men's hoops team. (LJ)
Tumblin' to gold
For the five women (and three alternates) on Team USA's gymnastics crew heading to Rio, 2016 looks to be a landmark year. Everyone's talking about 19-year-old Simone Biles, Team USA's standout member. With 10 world championship gold medals — making her the most decorated American gymnast of all time — Biles is far and away the favorite to win the all-around gold, with start values for her routines so high (based on difficulty of skills included) that she could conceivably fall a few times and still come out on top.
Joining Biles are 2012 Olympic team members Gabby Douglas (who made history in London, winning gold team and all-around medals) and multiple medal-winner Aly Raisman, along with newcomers Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian. Team USA doesn't seem to face any major threats to winning the team gold in 2016; the most likely competition is Russia (who were cleared to compete as of August 2) and China.
The USA's male gymnasts, meanwhile, hope to make it onto the team medal podium after a fifth-place finish in London. Women's gymnastics competition begins with team qualifications, Sunday, Aug. 7 at noon. (CS)
The Olympic opening ceremonies begin Friday at 4 pm on NBC. Go to nbcolympics.com for a full event schedule.
How to Watch
Viewers with cable/antenna: NBC can't possibly show all of the Olympic events on its main network, so look for listings on MSNBC, Bravo and USA Network.
Viewers online: Annoyingly, you'll need a cable password to watch the NBC Sports app on an Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Xbox or cellphone; nbcolympics.com offers free full live streaming of events, but you can only watch from the browser and commercials are included.
Viewers who like happy hour: Go to a sports bar or restaurant and enjoy the Olympics with a group. Some places, like Geno's (1414 N. Hamilton) will play USA women's soccer matches (our men's team didn't make the cut) throughout the next two weeks.