Summer Olympics 2012: Events Even the Casual Sports Fan Must Watch
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With more than three dozen events taking place during the course of 17 days, it's difficult to find the time and motivation to watch all of them. Still, there are a few that require your viewership whether you're a diehard sports nut, or you only watch sporting events once every four years.
There are a total of 39 categories. A few of them—such as swimming and athletics—break down into several additional events. For example, track and field will produce 47 events alone, from sprints to hammer throws.
Let's be honest, you'd be quite the fanatic to catch every single minute of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
For those of you who don't have that kind of time, here are the seven events you must check out.
Track and Field
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Track and Field—specifically the track events—is one of the marquee events during the Summer Olympics.
Of the dozens of competitions, be sure to catch the 100-meter dash to see who is crowned the fastest man and woman of the Games.
The best of the rest includes the competition in the hurdles, and any of the relays.
The big ticket day is Sunday, August 5. The women's 400-meter dash takes place at 4:10 p.m. ET, and the men's 100-meter dash finishes at 4:50 p.m. ET.
On the field, fun events to watch include the high jump, pole vault, and javelin. Each provide incredible feats of athleticism and talent.
On Saturday, August 11, there are eight gold medals on the line.
From left to right: Chris Paul (13), Kevin Durant (5), Tyson Chandler and Kobe Bryant (10)
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Olympic basketball is a who's who of NBA talent.
Team USA features dozens of familiar faces, from Kobe Bryant to Kevin Durant, and LeBron James to Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, a variety of players will represent their home countries. For example, Serge Ibaka and brothers Marc and Pau Gasol suit up for Spain.
On the heels of Kobe Bryant's remarks about the current Olympic team's ability to beat the 1992 Dream Team, this year's Games grew much more interesting.
You'll have to tune in to find out if the team looks better than its predecessors.
The knockout stage begins on Tuesday, August 7.
Misty May-Treanor (left) with teammate Kerri Walsh (right)
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Many likely don't realize the amount of athleticism it takes to play beach volleyball.
Think it's easy?
Go for a run on the beach—the actual deep, sandy beach, not the shoreline.
As if that wasn't challenging enough, try jumping barefoot in the sand.
It's very difficult to continuously jump as high as the beach volleyball athletes do to spike, block and sometimes serve the ball. After a while, stamina begins to play a huge factor too.
Stamina, leg strength, core, coordination and awareness—you need all five (and then some) to play.
American athletes Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh look to capture their third consecutive gold medal. It'll be interesting to see if the pair can pull it off. Since winning gold in Beijing four years ago, May-Treanor ruptured an Achilles tendon, and Walsh had two children.
The Round of 16 begins August 3.
Volleyball is also worth a look, but you get the idea of how the games will go after just one match.
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There's something quirky about diving.
First of all, it takes a particular amount of gumption to dive from such a height. Add in flips, twists, and turns, and diving is not for the meek.
It's fascinating to see how many of these wild movements can be performed while plummeting toward the water. It's even more jaw-dropping when the action is completed with little to no splash.
Dedicating time during the weekday after work isn't necessary.
The women's 3-meter springboard final takes place at 2 p.m. ET on August 5, and the men's 10-meter platform (You know, the really high one.) final is at 3:30 p.m. ET on August 11. Both are great options.
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Football—or soccer as it's known in the United States—is one of the most popular sports in the entire world.
For this reason alone, soccer is worth a look.
Ultimate soccer fans are inclined to check out any and every game, but casual fans will get enough of a fix tuning in to see how their country's men and women do.
For American viewers, the women's team is on a terror.
They're the favorites to win and play with an exciting, multiple goal-scoring style.
There's tons more interest surrounding women's soccer, too, including U.S. goal-keeper Hope Solo, up-and-comer Alex Morgan, and the host nation of Great Britain, a talented team and the defending World Cup champions. Japan also is competitive.
The women's knockout stage begins Friday, August 3.
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Gymnastics is an interesting and entertaining sport because while the competitors may be so small and cute that you want to fold them up and put them in your back pocket, the competition is fierce and cutthroat.
It seems as if no one takes their sport as serious as gymnasts.
From back-flips on a balance beam and tests of strength on the rings, gymnastics has something for everyone.
The variety is there.
But no matter what specific event you watch, each features amazing twists and turns that can result in dangerous falls.
It's the combination of the danger, exhilaration, and jaw-dropping displays of what one can do with the human body that make gymnastics worth hours of your time.
Between July 30 and August 7, there are 14 gold medals up for grabs. All of the events take place between 9 a.m. ET. and 11:30 a.m. ET., but the West Coast crowd can catch them in the morning before work.
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Track and field is one of the two marquee events of the Summer Games. Swimming is the other.
The reason is that the two are the easiest to relate to.
The sprints are fun and quick to watch because it's simply impressive to see how fast one can move.
Swimming is different, though.
There's definitely an element of speed, but swimming tends to amp up the drama. Typically, the finish times are within a tenth of a second, sometimes even a hundredth.
Then there's the athleticism.
Seeing athletes move in different styles of strokes is incredible. For instance, swimming breaststroke for 100 meters takes some serious body strength. The amount of stamina required for a 400-meter individual medley is not something casual sports fans have.
The match up everyone will be talking about (So why not you too?) is Round 2, between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
The two compete in the 200-meter individual medley beginning August 1. Finals take place on August 2, during the day.
It's a race you'll want to take a snack break at work for.
On the Bubble
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The casual fan must check out track and field, basketball, beach volleyball, diving, football (soccer), gymnastics, and swimming.
If you find yourself with a bit of extra time on a weekend morning, the following are worth getting a brief glimpse of too.
Another quirky sport that is just darn fun to watch. It's even more fun to yell "Bullseye!" The women's gold medal match is at 2 p.m. ET, July 29.
Like beach volleyball, it may be underestimated how much physical and mental strength it takes to row.
Likewise, rowing is the ultimate team sport. Each member must work together in perfect rhythm to propel their boat to victory. All the while, each member must keep the boat balanced, otherwise it capsizes.
And those boats can really scoot.
If you do watch, check out the shoulders of each competitor. They're monstrous.
Tune in for five minutes of one match. It's amazing how fast these individuals can move the ball back and forth in such little space. Sneak a peek at 1 p.m. ET on July 29.
Like table tennis, it's worth changing the channel to weight lifting for five minutes here and five minutes there to see insane tests of physical strength. You can view the final competitions at 2 p.m. ET July 29 and August 4.