With the opening ceremonies for the Rio Olympics getting underway on Friday night, I thought I would take the time to break down the top 10 must-see events you should be marking your calendars for over the next couple of weeks. So without further ado:
10. USA Women’s Basketball
As dominant as the men’s team has been and continues to be at the Olympic level, the USA Women’s Basketball team is no slouch by any means. They’re coached by the legendary Geno Auriemma, who’s guided the UConn Lady Huskies to 11 national championships, and features tremendous talents including Elena Delle Done, Maya Moore, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart. If you’re looking to see one of the most cohesive basketball clinics, this is where you should be looking.
9. Opening Ceremonies
Can’t not have this on the list. It will be interesting to see how all-out Brazil will go to make the games look as spectacular as possible in order to take away from all the negative attention the games have received, which only adds intrigue to see how the ceremonies play out.
8. Table Tennis
Or as common people call it, ping-pong. If you thought you were a good ping-pong player, then after you see how insanely good the people who play it at the Olympic level are, your opinion will soon change. The level of skill and precision these athletes exhibit is nothing short of extraordinary. I know I’ll be watching.
7. Brazil Men’s Soccer featuring Neymar
Following their World Cup debacle in 2014, the Brazil soccer team, led by the sensational Neymar will be looking for a different result this time around. Since I don’t consider myself an avid soccer fan, the only player I’d go out of my way to watch in Rio is Neymar, and the rest of the Brazil squad to see how they handle the pressure and to see the electricity in the stadium.
6. USA Women’s Soccer
Following their first World Cup triumph since 1999 last summer, the USA Women’s Soccer team, winners of the last three Olympic gold medals and four of the last five, will once again be on full display in Rio. It feels like the popularity of this team has soared since winning the World Cup, and the quick turnaround should only benefit women’s soccer in this country which became attached to this team in Canada. All the big stars will be there, including Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe.
5. 2-on-2 Beach Volleyball
Full disclosure: I never watch beach volleyball except when it’s on during the Olympics, and it’s easily one of the most entertaining events in the games. First off, you have to be in absurd physical condition in order to be good, because the amount of stamina it takes to make a diving stop, get back on your feet and then finish the play off with a spike, all the while playing on sand in the scorching heat is truly mind boggling. These athletes don’t get talked about much, but they’re as talented as any athletes as there are in the world.
4. Serena Williams
The GOAT is back in the Olympics. Anything short of gold in both singles and doubles with her sister Venus will be considered a complete and utter failure.
3. USA Men’s Basketball
The only reason they’re not higher on this list is because most of their games will be major blowouts, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be fun to watch. We get our first real chance to see what the Warriors super team of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant (Steph Curry pulled out of the Olympics, very lame) will look like. DeMar DeRozan’s own person dunk contest as well as the fact that Marv Albert will be on the call are enough reasons by themselves to tune in.
2. Usain Bolt
The 2016 Olympics will be Usain Bolt’s last hurrah on the national stage, since he announced his decision to retire following the 2017 World Championships in London, which no one will be watching any way. Greatness like Bolt’s comes along once in a generation, and I’m extremely eager to see if the star sprinter who burst onto the scene in 2008 will have a fairy tale ending to his career.
1. Michael Phelps
The greatest Olympic athlete says Rio will be his last Olympics, take that as you wish, but no athlete will be more polarizing at these Olympics than Michael Phelps. He claims he’s happier than he’s ever been and that for the first time in his life, he’ll be giving 100 percent effort. When it’s time for Phelps to hop in the pool, that’s when the ratings for the Olympics will go through the roof.