The 2012 London Games kick off on July 27th at Olympic stadium, and while the eyes of all the world will be cast to Great Britain, the events those eyes are interested in will vary.
In the United States events such as basketball, gymnastics and track and field reign supreme but there are a number of other, lesser-known (at least stateside) sports represented in the Olympics that can be just as fascinating to watch unfold.
Handball (July 28th - August 12th)
No, this isn't the game where you slap a rubber ball off the side of a wall, and in fact this seven-on-seven team sport played by both men and women has absolutely nothing in common with its American counterpart.
According to Dr. Hassan Moustafa, president of the International Handball Federation, Olympic handball is "a terrific fast-paced play including many goal-scoring scenes, fascinating tackling, acrobatic shots, brilliant tricks and spectacular goalkeeper saves."
The game combines elements of basketball, hockey, and soccer and is high-scoring and very physical, which should appeal to American audiences. However, don't expect to see the United States represented, as they haven't participated in Olympic handball this century.
Handball competition at the international level is usually dominated by the European nations and likely will be again in London, where the French men and Norwegian women will attempt to repeat as Olympic champions when competition begins July 28th.
Water Polo (July 29th - August 12th)
I'll freely confess that I don't completely understand this sport, or even why it's called water polo, since I've watched a number of matches over the years and have yet to see a horse anywhere near the pool.
However, if it's an exciting aquatic variation of handball that you're looking for, then put that remote down and have a seat, because this sport, which has been featured at the Olympics dating back to 1900, is basically just that.
Apparently if you put a game inside a swimming pool the United States becomes more interested in winning it. Both American water polo teams have fared much better in recent international competitions than their land-based handball-playing counterparts, advancing to the gold medal match at the Beijing Games before losing to the Hungarian men and Dutch women.
Field Hockey (July 29th - August 11th)
According to the International Federation of Hockey, the game of field hockey is played in over 150 countries worldwide. The modern version of the sport traces its roots back to 19th-century England, so interest in the host nation is apt to be high as the British attempt to win their first Olympic medal in field hockey in 24 years.
There are some differences of course between field hockey and its frozen counterpart, but essentially the sport is the same, which probably makes it the easiest of this trio for American audiences to follow with more than a vague notion of what's going on.
Sadly for some, there won't be any instances of toothless defensemen dropping their gloves and beating the crud out of one another, but there will be plenty of slick passes, sick shots on goal and great saves.
What there won't be is the American men's team, which failed to qualify for the tournament in London. However, the United States' women's team will be a participant when the German men and Dutch women begin their quest to defend their golds from China.
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