With the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic games coming this Friday, let’s take a look at all the important topics to watch this summer!
1. Opening Ceremony. The opening ceremony is a spectacle watched around the world and can set the tone for the rest of the games. Will there be a blunder like the little girl lip-syncing the national anthem in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, or a heart-touching moment like the late, great Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic Torch?
2. US Women’s Gymnastics Team. The US women’s gymnastics team is the favorite to get the overall gold this year. However, what might be more interesting to watch is whether another American can grab the All-Around Gold for the fourth straight Olympics. Three-time world champion, Simone Biles, is the favorite to win the gold. But, she is competing against reigning Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas, 2012 Olympics fourth runner-up Aly Raisman, and hot newcomer Laurie Hernandez.
3. Conditions in Rio. Zika, water pollution, gang violence and security issues are plaguing Rio. For nearly a year, Brazil has been in a state of emergency as they battle the Zika virus known to cause birth defects in babies. Several athletes have declined to travel to Rio this year and Zika is expected to be behind those decisions. Water pollution also threatens the sailing events this year and athletes have been told to spend as little time as possible in the water due to untreated human waste in the water. The World Health Organization has suggested athletes to “cover cuts with waterproof plasters prior to exposure.” In addition to health issues, there are threats of gang violence and the Olympic security firm was fired less than a week before the games. There have also been issues with the athlete’s Olympic village where “uninhabitable” conditions have kept athletes in nearby hotels instead, and the Australian team was robbed during a fire evacuation after returning to the village.
4. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. Do these two all-time great athletes still have what it takes to bring home the gold for their countries? With some out-of-the-pool issues and a suspension from Team USA, Phelps is said to be more focused than ever and ready to prove himself again. Meanwhile, Usain Bolt, who is turning 30 on the day of the closing ceremonies, has seen his times get slower in the past years. He is looking to win the 100m, 200m, and 4x400m relay for the third consecutive time. No other person has ever done this twice.
5. Team Russia and Doping. The Russian Olympic team has taken a huge due to doping. The International Olympic Committee originally banned nearly 400 Russian athletes after the entire track and field, rowing, and weightlifting teams were all banned for doping. The IOC announced it would not ban the entire team, but has still banned more than 110 Russian Olympians for this year’s Olympics, by far the largest of any Olympic games. Will the remaining athletes be able to make a splash at the games?
6. US Basketball Teams. While the Men’s team has a couple decent challengers in their pool, the US Women’s team has been absolutely dominate in the Olympics – winning 7 gold medals with an overall record of 58-3 in Olympic play. They also enter the Rio games on a 41 game winning streak. Despite several top athletes abstaining from this year’s games for the Men’s Team, they still figure to be the favorites led by Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins.
7. New Sports. Rugby Sevens will make its first appearance in the 2016 games. Rugby Sevens is made up of seven active players for each team, compared to the 15-player teams in traditional rugby. Golf is also making a return after a 112-year hiatus. Baseball and softball, karate, squash, and roller sports all vied for the open two spots.
8. Can Brazil Take Gold in Men’s Soccer? Brazil has five World Cup championships, but has never won gold in the Olympics. Can the home team finally overcome their Olympic challenges and bring their country gold?
9. Allyson Felix’s Fourth Olympic Games. At the age of 30, Allyson Felix is looking to become the third woman in Olympic history to win the 200m and 400m races in the same Olympics. She boasts six Olympic medals and four individual world championships.