The XXXl Olympiad opens on Friday and Olympic fever is about to sweep the nation. We have produced a bluffer’s guide to get you in the mood for the next fortnight’s inevitable sporting takeover.
ATHLETICS August 12–20
Dead cert Usain Bolt in the 100m. Obviously.
Best of British Mo Farah is still the man to catch in the 5,000m and 10,000m; Jessica Ennis-Hill will make Olympic history if she can defend her heptathlon title.
Corinthian contender Long-jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford could have been lost to Aston Villa as a teenager and he recently mooted the idea of qualifying for bobsleigh in the 2018 Winter Olympics; at 42, 10,000m runner Jo Pavey will be the oldest British woman to run in a Games.
Beat that Black American athlete Jesse Owens upset Hitler by winning four golds at Berlin in 1936.
Golden moment The epic middle-distance battle between Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett (who won) in the 800m at Moscow in 1980.
Need to know Tsegai Tewelde, representing Great Britain in the men’s marathon, has a scar on his forehead from a landmine explosion in Eritrea when he was eight years old.
EQUESTRIAN August 6–9 (eventing); August 10–12 and 15 (dressage); August 14–19 (showjumping)
Dead cert Germany for eventing team gold for the third time running; short of freak bad luck, nothing will stop this well-prepared juggernaut and they could dominate all three disciplines, as they did in Seoul in 1988
Best of British Reigning Olympic, World and European dressage champions Charlotte Dujardin and her ‘dancing horse’ Valegro; eventer William Fox-Pitt, miraculously back in action after a serious head injury. Showjumper John Whitaker, 61 on Friday, is competing in his sixth Olympics and his brother, Michael, in his fifth.
Corinthian contender Showjumper Nick Skelton, contesting his seventh Games aged 58, came out of retirement in 2002, after breaking his neck and despite wonky hips, knees and back. ‘Real jobs’ are nothing new among eventers: the 2008 gold medallist Hinrich Romeike (German) is a dentist, Irish rider Clare Abbott is a maths teacher and Brazilian Marcia Jorge is an anaesthetist.
Beat that In 1988, legendary New Zealander Mark Todd (who’s at his seventh Olympics, aged 60) won back-to-back eventing gold on his little black horse Charisma, which, at 16, had been written off by critics
Golden moment A dead heat between Britain’s unexpected showjumping gold in London and Valegro cantering merrily along to Land of Hope and Glory en route to taking this country’s first Olympic dressage title, an occurrence once thought as likely as flying to the Moon.
Need to know Test Match Special’s Aggers (Jonathan Agnew) will make his equestrian commentating debut in Rio for the BBC.
TENNIS August 6–14
Dead cert World number one Novak Djokovic, who describes the Olympics as ‘the fifth grand slam’, should be tough to beat—if he gets over recent wobbles Best of British Current Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, as always; in 2012, he beat Roger Federer to win gold.
Corinthian contender John Pius Boland, an Irish politician and MP, won both the men’s singles and doubles at the inaugural Games at Athens in 1896.
Beat that Kathleen McKane Godfree won a record five Olympic medals, at Antwerp in 1920 and Paris in 1924. She was also a British badminton champion.
Golden moment Germany’s Steffi Graf says her gold at Seoul was bigger than winning all four grand slams in that same year.
Need to know Tennis was played at the Olympics from 1896 until 1924. It was then excluded until 1988, due to a disagreement between governing bodies.
CYCLING August 6–16 (road and track); August 17–21 (BMX and mountain bike)
Dead cert Our Lizzie Armitstead is the world’s number-one road racer.
Best of British Indoor riders Laura Trott and triple gold medallist Jason Kenny Corinthian contender Keirin rider Becky James from Abergavenny in Wales has missed two years of competition through injuries and a health scare.
Beat that In 2008, Chris Hoy was the first British athlete in 100 years to win three gold medals at one Games—his tally is six gold and one silver.
Golden moment Bradley Wiggins’s time-trial gold in 2012, straight after his Tour de France victory, suddenly made Lycra sexy.
Need to know Women’s track competitor Kate Archibald was working as a telesales operator when she was recruited onto the Olympic Development Programme in 2013.
SAILING August 8–18
Dead cert Briton Giles Scott should carry on where Sir Ben Ainslie left off in the Finn class.
Best of British Plenty, including Alison Young in the laser radial, Nick Thompson (laser) and windsurfer Nick Dempsey.
Corinthian contender 470 duo Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills haven’t let being robbed at knifepoint in Rio 18 months ago put them off.
Beat that Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom won four Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles in eight different types of boat.
Golden moment Ainslie beating the great Dane, Jonas Høgh-Christensen, to win gold in 2012. It made him the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, with four golds and one silver medal.
Need to know Sailing is one of only two Olympic sports in which men and women compete against each other— the other is equestrianism.
GOLF August 11–20
Dead cert Masters champion Danny Willett will be a favourite Best of British Justin Rose and women’s star Charley Hull (Rory McIlroy, who was to represent Ireland, pulled out due to the Zika virus).
Golden moment Not many, because golf hasn’t been in the Olympics since 1904, when the Canadian George Lyon won in St Louis. The sport’s future at the Games is debatable, a cause not helped by McIlroy saying he’ll be concentrating on ‘stuff that matters’.
Need to know Art student Margaret Ives Abbott won a golf tournament in Paris in 1900, unaware it was the Olympics, and died without knowing that she was America’s first female Olympic champion.
FENCING August 6–14
Dead cert Gauthier Grumier of France is the big favourite in the men’s épée.
Best of British Team GB has the strongest squad for decades—James Davis and Richard Kruse should be on the podium Corinthian contender Italian fencer and politician Valentina Vezzali, a five-time Olympian, has won six gold, one silver and two bronze medals; unfortunately, she narrowly failed to qualify for Rio.
Beat that Italian brothers Nedo and Aldo Nadi were considered to be two of the greatest swordsmen of all time—they won eight golds between them at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.
Golden moment Rubén Limardo’s delight when he won Venezuela’s second ever Olympic gold medal, in London, in the men’s épée. He wore the medal for weeks and posed for photos on the Tube.
Need to know There was controversy in 2012 when South Korean Shin Lam believed she was through to the final, but the clock was suddenly reset from zero to one second, enough time for her German opponent to score a hit, taking her through to the next round.
HOCKEY August 6–19
Dead cert The Dutch women’s team are current Olympic and World champions.
Best of British The men’s squad is ranked four in the world, but the women are the ones to watch.
Corinthian contender Britain’s captain Kate Richardson-Walsh, this country’s most capped female player, suffered a badly broken jaw in London.
Beat that Gold medallist Sean Kerly is a British hockey stalwart, who has dedicated his life to the game.
Golden moment When the British men’s team, including Kerly, beat West Germany at Seoul in 1988. Goal scorer Imran Sherwani was a newsagent from Staffordshire.
Need to know Hannah Macleod and rower Alex Partridge had their 2012 medals stolen at London nightclub Mahiki.
GYMNASTICS August 6–21
Dead cert Louis Smith, the former European champion on the pommel horse, made history in 2008 as the first British man to win an individual gymnastics medal for 100 years; more people may know that he went on to win Strictly Come Dancing.
Best of British Max Whitlock in the all-around and pommel-horse events.
Corinthian contender Reigning British floor champion Amy Tinkler, 16, is the youngest of Team GB’s 366-strong delegation of athletes.
Beat that Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10.00 at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, but the electronic scoreboard wasn’t configured to display a four-digit maximum—it showed 1.00 instead.
Golden moment When a young Soviet athlete captivated the world at Munich in 1972, taking home three gold medals. Olga Korbut’s flip was later banned at the Olympics for being too dangerous.
Need to know The word ‘gymnastics’ is derived from the Greek word gymnós, meaning ‘naked’