10 Olympics stories to watch

  • Updated: July 24, 2012 - 3:09 PM
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Swimmer Michael Phelps has said his real motivation in London will be making history, as he tries to break the record for most Olympic medals won by an individual.

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press

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AHEAD IN THE STAR TRIBUNE

Wednesday: Keep reading the Star Tribune for profiles and previews in advance of the Games.

Thursday: Live coverage from our three journalists in London begins.

Friday's opening ceremonies for the London Olympics are rapidly approaching. To make sure you are adequately prepared, Star Tribune staff writer Rachel Blount, who will be covering the games, gives you a primer on the 10 biggest story lines you need to follow during the Olympics:

1 THE HOME TEAM

Olympic host countries typically get a boost in the medal count, and Great Britain is expected to win even more than it did during a standout performance at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Several analysts have projected the Brits will surpass the 47 medals they won in 2008 and finish fourth in the medal count behind the U.S., China and Russia. Their rowing and cycling teams are particularly strong, and others to watch include tennis star Andy Murray, diver Tom Daley and equestrian Zara Phillips, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth.

2 GENDER BALANCE

The London Games will be the most female-friendly Olympics in history. For the first time, the U.S. Olympic team has more women (269) than men (261). Women's boxing will make its Olympic debut, pushing the percentage of events for women at the 2012 Games to 46.4 percent -- an all-time high. In another first, every participating country will send at least one female athlete.

3 PHELPS' ENCORE

Much has been made of the rivalry between Michael Phelps and fellow American swimmer Ryan Lochte. But Phelps has said his real motivation in London will be making history, as he tries to break the record for most Olympic medals won by an individual. With 14 gold and two bronze in the previous two Summer Games, Phelps -- who has said these will be his last Olympics -- needs three more medals to pass the 18 won by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Games.

4 POOL PARTY

Phelps will not be the only big story at the swimming venue. The powerful U.S. team also includes 17-year-old Missy Franklin, the first American woman to swim seven events at an Olympic Games. She could medal in each of them, and Lochte also is expected to rack up medals as he swims in at least five events. Japan's Kosuke Kitajima could sweep the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes for the third consecutive Olympics.

5 WORLD'S FASTEST MAN

Usain Bolt, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, seemed on track to retain that title in London. Then teammate Yohan Blake upset him in both events at Jamaica's Olympic trials, adding drama to two of the Summer Games' premier events. Bolt, who set world records in the 100 and 200 to become one of the biggest stars of the Beijing Games, could become the first sprinter to repeat as the 100 and 200 champion at the Olympics.

6 TWIST AND SHOUT

The American women's gymnastics team has not won Olympic gold since Atlanta's Magnificent Seven in 1996. Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas could get it back atop the podium, and they also could battle it out for the all-around title. The men's side has its own superstar in Japan's Kohei Uchimura, the first man to win three consecutive world all-around titles, and a powerful U.S. men's team could challenge for gold.

7 HOST CITY HEADACHES

London's Olympic organizing committee has been in damage-control mode on a constant basis recently, addressing multiple problems that could bedevil the Games. Military personnel are providing security after a private company failed to train enough workers. There are long lines at understaffed Heathrow Airport, public workers are threatening to strike and taxi drivers upset about Olympic express lanes have blocked traffic. All these issues could leave a bad taste in the mouths of Olympic tourists.

8 THE BLADE RUNNER

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa won three gold medals in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. The double amputee, who runs on carbon-fiber blades, will make history in London as he becomes the first amputee athlete to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius will run in the 400 meters and the 4x400 relay; in last year's world championships, he made the semifinals of the 400 and won a silver medal with the relay team.

9 CYBERGAMES

If you want to be surprised by the Olympic prime-time telecasts, you better turn off the computer and smartphone. A sporting event rooted in antiquity will be delivered to worldwide observers in the most modern ways, from live Web streaming to Twitter feeds. Every event in every sport will be streamed live on nbcolympics.com (3,500 hours in all), and social media will be buzzing with real-time results and news during the most wired Olympics in history.

10 BACK ON HE GRASS

Only a few weeks after Wimbledon, many of the world's best tennis players will return to the sport's most iconic venue for the Olympic tournament. Rafael Nadal, who was to have carried Spain's flag in the opening ceremonies, is out because of an injury. Roger Federer is looking for his first Olympic gold in men's singles after winning his seventh Wimbledon title on July 8, while Serena and Venus Williams are heavily favored to win their third gold medal in women's doubles.

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19

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