Commentary

Viewer's Guide: What to watch

Updated: July 27, 2012, 9:55 PM ET
By ESPN.com

July 28

What: Cycling
Where: At The Mall
Events/When: Men's road race, 5 a.m. ET

Summary: Nine tough circuits totaling 155 miles will test the world's best, many of whom just completed the Tour de France. Small (five-man maximum) national teams and no race radios should make for exciting, aggressive racing. Look for a breakaway to go early and be caught; some teams are likely to try to work together to drop top sprinters, especially Great Britain's favored Mark Cavendish.

What: Swimming
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 400 freestyle final, 400 individual medley final; women's 100 butterfly semifinals, 400 individual medley final, 4x100 freestyle relay final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary: Things kick off at the Aquatics Centre in a big way, with the first of two Olympic showdowns between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley, the grueling event Phelps swore he would never swim again. Lochte got the better of Phelps by .83 seconds at the Olympic trials, and now Phelps seeks his revenge.

July 29

What: Cycling
Where: At The Mall
Events/When: Women's road race, 7 a.m.

Summary: The women's race -- a shortened version of the men's, with only two climbs up Box Hill compared to nine -- is more likely to finish in a mass sprint. If that's the case, veterans Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany, Giorgia Bronzini of Italy and Marianne Vos of the Netherlands will be favored, but Shelley Olds of the U.S. has proved she belongs in the conversation.

What: Fencing
Where: At ExCel
Events/When: Men's individual sabre semifinals, bronze- and gold-medal matches, 1 p.m.

Summary: The most aggressive, fast-moving discipline in this ancient sport is still dominated by Europeans, although South Korea has several highly ranked men. It would take a major upset for an American to advance to the medal rounds.

What: Swimming

Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 100 backstroke semifinals, 200 freestyle semifinals, 100 breaststroke final, 4x100 freestyle relay final; women's 100 backstroke semifinals, 100 breaststroke semifinals, 100 butterfly final, 400 freestyle final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary: Brendan Hansen gets his last chance at achieving the one and only goal he had for himself when he came back to swimming last year: Olympic gold. In his way will be longtime rival and two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Kosuke Kitajima from Japan. Also watch for Dana Vollmer to try to become the first woman in history to swim the 100-meter butterfly in less than 56 seconds, and a showdown between Australia's "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and the U.S. team in the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay.

July 30

What: Fencing
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Women's individual epee semifinals, bronze- and gold-medal matches, 1 p.m.

Summary: Chinese and Eastern European fencers currently lead the world rankings. The whole body is fair game for scoring on a touch in this discipline.

What: Gymnastics
Where: At Artistic North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Men's team final, 11:30 a.m.

Summary: A strong, diverse cast for the U.S. should finish on the podium and has an outside shot at gold if it's firing on all cylinders, but China and Japan will provide very stern competition.

What: Swimming
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 200 butterfly semifinals, 100 backstroke final, 200 freestyle final; women's 200 freestyle semifinals, 200 individual medley semifinals, 100 backstroke final, 100 breaststroke final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary: The story is likely to be that of Missy Franklin, who will swim a challenging double with the semifinals of the 200-meter freestyle followed by the final of the 100-meter backstroke. Also keep an eye on teammate Rebecca Soni, who is the favorite to win gold in the 100-meter breaststroke with the fastest time in 2012.

July 31

What: Gymnastics
Where: At Artistic North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Women's team final, 11:30 a.m.

Summary: There are high expectations for the defending world champion U.S. team, led by individual all-around gold medalist Jordyn Wieber. The effervescent Gabrielle Douglas made herself indispensable this year and neatly filled a gap for the team with her skill on the uneven bars.

What: Swimming
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 100 freestyle semifinals, 200 breaststroke semifinals, 200 butterfly final, 4x200 freestyle relay final; women's 200 butterfly semifinals, 200 freestyle final, 200 individual medley final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary:Tonight will certainly carry a bit of nostalgia as Michael Phelps swims his marquee event, the 200-meter butterfly, for the last time. On the women's side, watch for another Bob Bowman-coached swimmer, Allison Schmitt, in the 200-meter freestyle final. She set an American record during Olympic trials.

Aug. 1

What: Cycling (road)
Where: At Hampton Court Palace
Events/When: Women's individual time trial, 5 a.m.; men's individual time trial, 8 a.m.

Summary: Defending gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of the U.S. says she's fully recovered from the broken collarbone she suffered in late May, and no one is fiercer or faster when she's in form. Young Taylor Phinney raced on the track at the last Olympics and said the sensory bombardment of the Games will be a lot easier to handle this time. Favorites on the men's side include Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, Germany's Tony Martin and Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins.

What: Gymnastics
Where: At Artistic North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Men's individual all-around final, 11:30 a.m.

Summary: Japan's ultra-gifted Kohei Uchimura will strive to move up one step from his 2008 silver to gold. Danell Leyva and John Orozco of the U.S. could give him a scare.

What: Swimming
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 200 backstroke semifinals, 200 individual medley semifinals, 100 freestyle final, 200 breaststroke final; women's 100 freestyle semifinals, 200 breaststroke semifinals, 200 butterfly final, 4x200 freestyle relay final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary: The men's 100-meter freestyle is always one of the marquee events in swimming, and tonight's matchup should feature Aussie James Magnussen's pursuit of Brazil's Cesar Cielo and his world record. But don't sleep on Americans Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones.

Aug. 2

What: Gymnastics
Where: At Artistic North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Women's individual all-around final, 11:30 a.m.

Summary: Anything less than gold will be a disappointment for Jordyn Wieber. Gabrielle Douglas should be in the mix as well.

What: Swimming
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 50 freestyle semifinals, 100 butterfly semifinals, 200 backstroke final, 200 individual medley final; women's 200 backstroke semifinals, 100 freestyle final, 200 breaststroke final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary: This could be Ryan Lochte's big night, as he'll likely be swimming in the finals of both the 200-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley. The IM will mark the second of his two showdowns with Michael Phelps. Lochte lost the 200 IM to Phelps at trials by .08 seconds, the closest 200 IM in trials history.

Aug. 3

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 1,500-meter Round 1, long jump qualifying, shot put final; women's 100 Round 1, 10,000 final, discus qualifying, heptathlon: shot put, 200, 2 p.m.

Summary: Much attention has been directed at Allyson Felix and her goal to double-medal -- she will begin the quest today in the 100-meter heats -- but Galen Rupp is attempting a double as well. He goes for the first leg today in the 10,000-meter run, followed by the 5K on Aug. 10.

What: Swimming
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 50 freestyle final, 100 butterfly final; women's 50 freestyle semifinals, 200 backstroke final, 800 freestyle final, 2:30 p.m.

Summary: Can Anthony Ervin, a comeback "kid" at 30, win a medal in the 50 free to replace the gold he shared with Gary Hall Jr. in Sydney and later auctioned off on eBay for tsunami relief? Great Britain's favorite water daughter, Rebecca Adlington, is favored to repeat in the 800 freestyle, and Missy Franklin will cap what promises to be a sensational Games by swimming the 200 backstroke.

What: Weightlifting
Where: At ExCel
Events/When: Women's 75kg, Group A (medal), 10:30 a.m.

Aug. 4

What: Tennis
Where: At Wimbledon
Events/When: Men's doubles gold- and bronze-medal matches; women's singles gold- and bronze-medal matches; mixed doubles bronze-medal match, 7 a.m.

Summary: Purists can argue that tennis has no place in the Olympics, but tuning in to this tournament will be irresistible because of the hallowed venue and the novelty of seeing players compete in national colors rather than traditional whites. Both Serena Williams and the Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, hope to capture the only title that has eluded them.

What: Triathlon
Where: At Hyde Park
Events/When: Women's race, 4 a.m.

What: Track and field

Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Women's 100 final, 4:55 p.m.

Summary: If Allyson Felix wants to double, she'll have to beat Carmelita Jeter in the 100-meter final, which Jeter won at the U.S. trials, along with the Jamaicans. Jeter also is going for a double in the 100 and 200.

Aug. 5

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 100 semifinals and final, 400 semifinals, 1,500 semifinals, 3,000 steeplechase final, high jump qualifying, hammer final; women's 400 final, 400 hurdles Round 1, triple jump final, 1:50 p.m.

Summary: This is the big day at the track when Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell will attempt to sweep the 100-meter dash while Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin will try to upset them. Bolt is the most famous figure in the sport but Blake beat him in the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican trials.

What: Track and field
Where: At The Mall
Events/When: Women's marathon, 6 a.m.

Summary: The U.S. is sending its strongest team ever in Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher to challenge Kenya's Mary Keitany and Russia's Liliya Shobukhova. Davila has shown she can run with the best internationally and has done extensive recon on the course. Great Britain's much-decorated Paula Radcliffe is hoping to bow out of her signature event on a high note, although she has been bothered by a nagging foot injury.

What: Gymnastics
Where: At Artistic North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Men's floor exercise final, pommel horse final; women's vault final, 9 a.m.

Summary: A U.S. woman should finish in the top three in vault -- the question is, which one? Floor exercise and pommel horse are not strong events for the American men.

What: Tennis
Where: At Wimbledon
Events/When: Men's singles gold- and bronze-medal matches; women's doubles gold- and bronze-medal matches; mixed doubles gold-medal match, 7 a.m.

Summary: Top seed Roger Federer has made no secret of his yearning to win here. The Williams sisters, who have two doubles gold medals in hand, will seek a three-peat that could be poignant given the health concerns threatening Venus' career.

What: Wrestling (Greco-Roman) Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 55kg and 74kg qualifications, 1/8 finals, quarterfinals, semifinals, 8 a.m.; men's 55kg and 74kg repechage rounds, bronze- and gold-medal contests, 12:45 p.m.

Summary: He's already a YouTube sensation, and now 20-year-old Ellis Coleman will attempt to use his famous "Flying Squirrel" move to try to win an Olympic medal.

Aug. 6

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 400 final, 400 hurdles final; women's 200 Round 1, 400 hurdles semifinals, 3,000 steeplechase final, pole vault final, shot put final, 1:50 p.m.

Summary: Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter begin the next phase of a possible double-double during the 200 heats, while Sanya Richards-Ross begins her own double-double attempt (she also is running the 400). Meanwhile, LaShawn Merritt will go for gold again in the men's 400.

What: Wrestling (Greco-Roman)
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 60kg, 84kg and 120kg qualifications, 1/8 finals, quarterfinals, semifinals, 8 a.m.; men's 60kg, 84kg and 120kg repechage rounds, bronze- and gold-medal contests, 12:45 p.m.

Summary: Dremiel Byers, 37, is the only U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler to win gold, silver and bronze at the world championships. But he's here in London to make good on a promise to his late grandfather that he would win Olympic gold. Today, he gets his chance.

Aug. 7

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 800 semifinals, 1,500 final, high jump final, discus final; women's 100 hurdles semifinals and final, 200 semifinals, long jump qualifying, 1:50 p.m.

Summary: The track highlight is the men's 1,500, in which Asbel Kiprop and his fellow Kenyans are medal favorites.

What: Gymnastics
Where: At Artistic North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Men's horizontal bar final, parallel bars final; women's balance beam final, floor exercise final, 9 a.m.

Summary: This is the final day of competition, with 2011 world champ Danell Leyva going for gold on the parallel bars and Jordyn Wieber doing the same on the balance beam.

What: Diving
Where: At Olympic Park-Aquatics Centre
Events/When: Men's 3-meter springboard semifinals, 5 a.m.; men's 3-meter springboard final, 2 p.m.

Summary: It'll be business as usual -- that is, China versus the world. Defending gold medalist He Chong is a consensus pick to repeat.

What: Triathlon
Where: At Hyde Park
Events/When: Men's race, 6:30 a.m.

Summary: Iconic Hyde Park will be the setting for the grueling event, starting with the swim in the Serpentine. Great Britain's brother duo of Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee has dominated recent international competition. Both could finish in the top three.

What: Wrestling (Greco-Roman)
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 66kg and 96kg qualifications, 1/8 finals, quarterfinals, semifinals, 8 a.m.; men's 66kg and 96kg repechage rounds, bronze- and gold-medal contests, 12:45 p.m.

Summary: Akron, Ohio, native Justin Lester, a three-time world bronze medalist, will attempt to continue an American resurgence in Greco-Roman wrestling at 66 kilograms.

Aug. 8

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 110 hurdles semifinals and final, 200 semifinals, javelin qualifying, decathlon: high jump, 400; women's 200 final, 400 hurdles final, 1,500 semifinals, long jump final, 1 p.m.

Summary: It's a very big day on the track. Ashton Eaton, who broke the world record at the U.S. trials, will begin trying for gold in the decathlon, as will world champ Trey Hardee. Meanwhile, we see how Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross fare in the 200 final.

What: Beach volleyball
Where: At Horse Guards Parade
Events/When: Women's bronze- and gold-medal matches, 2 p.m.

Summary: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh hope to be playing for their third gold medal in beach volleyball but face stiff competition from higher-ranked Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva of Brazil and Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China, as well as fellow Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross.

Aug. 9

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 200 final, 800 final, triple jump final, decathlon: javelin, 1,500 (medal); women's 800 semifinals, 4x100 relay Round 1, javelin final, 1:30 p.m.

Summary: Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee will complete the decathlon, and Usain Bolt will go for gold in the 200, while Wallace Spearmon Jr. tries to knock him off. Will Claye and Christian Taylor will try for gold in the triple jump.

What: Beach volleyball
Where: At Horse Guards Parade
Events/When: Men's bronze- and gold-medal matches, 2 p.m.

Summary: Americans Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser are hoping to defend their 2008 gold medals, with Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal trying to medal as well.

What: Boxing
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Women's flyweight (51kg), lightweight (60kg) and middleweight (75kg) finals, 11:30 a.m.

Summary: Women's boxing finishes its Olympic debut with the finals in the flyweight, lightweight and middleweight divisions. The Americans are Marlen Esparza, Queen Underwood and astounding teenager Claressa Shields.

What: Women's soccer
Where: At City of Coventry Stadium
Events/When: Bronze-medal match, 8 a.m.
Where: At Wembley Stadium
Events/When: Gold-medal match, 2:45 p.m.

What: Taekwondo
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 68kg and women's 57kg preliminary round of 16, 4 a.m.; men's 68kg and women's 57kg quarterfinals, semifinals, 10 a.m.; men's 68kg and women's 57kg repechages, bronze-medal contests, gold-medal contests, 3 p.m.

Summary: Diana Lopez, 2008 bronze medalist and sister of fellow competitor Steven Lopez, will try to improve on her Beijing performance in the 57kg.

What: Women's water polo
Where: At Olympic Park-Water Polo Arena
Events/When: Classification matches (5th-6th, 7th-8th places), 9:30 a.m.; bronze- and gold-medal matches, 1:40 p.m.

Aug. 10

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 4x100 relay Round 1, 4x400 relay final, pole vault final; women's 1,500 final, 5,000 final, 4x100 relay final, 4x400 relay Round 1, hammer final, 2 p.m.

Summary: The men's 4x100 relay heats begin while the 4x400 relay and the women's 4x100 finish (hold on to the baton, everyone).

What: Field hockey
Where: At Olympic Park-Hockey Centre
Events/When: Women's classifications (5th-6th, 11th-12th places), 3:30 a.m.; women's bronze-medal match, 10:30 a.m.; women's gold-medal match, 3 p.m.

What: Swimming
Where: At Hyde Park
Events/When: Men's marathon, 10km, 7 a.m.

Summary: Harvard grad and 2010 25k world champ Alex Meyer is the only U.S. entry in what should be an extremely fast-paced race on a rectangular course in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Short straightaways at either end should make for a lot of jostling among the 25-man field going around the turn buoys. Favorites for gold include Tunisia's USC-trained Ous Mellouli, Germany's Thomas Lurz and Great Britain's Daniel Fogg.

What: Taekwondo
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 80kg and women's 67kg preliminary round of 16, 4 a.m.; men's 80kg and women's 67kg quarterfinals, semifinals, 10 a.m.; men's 80kg and women's 67kg repechages, bronze-medal contests, gold-medal contests, 3 p.m.

Summary: The first family of American taekwando finishes up its Olympics when Steven Lopez goes for the finals in the 67kg.

What: Wrestling (freestyle)
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 55kg and 74kg qualifications, 1/8 finals, quarterfinals, semifinals, 8 a.m.; men's 55kg and 74kg repechage rounds, bronze- and gold-medal contests, 12:45 p.m.

Summary: For months now, Jordan Burroughs has told anyone who has asked that all he sees is gold. It's his handle on Twitter and the address for his website. Today the ultra-confident former Hodge trophy winner will try to back up all the talk at 74kg.

Aug. 11

What: Track and field
Where: At Olympic Stadium
Events/When: Men's 5,000 final, 4x100 relay final, javelin final; women's 800 final, 4x400 relay final, high jump final, 1:45 p.m.

Summary: America's Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat will try to beat Britain's Mo Farah in the 5K. And the men and women will try to pass the baton smoothly in the 4x100 and 4x400 relay finals, respectively.

What: Women's basketball
Where: At North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Bronze medal, noon; gold medal, 4 p.m.

What: Men's soccer
Where: At Wembley Stadium
Events/When: Gold-medal match, 10 a.m.

What: Women's volleyball
Where: At Earls Court
Events/When: Bronze-medal match, 6:30 a.m.; gold-medal match, 1:30 p.m.

Summary: A veteran U.S. team is expected to finish on the podium, which would give coach Hugh McCutcheon -- who guided the U.S. men to gold in Beijing -- back-to-back medals.

What: Wrestling (freestyle)
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 60kg, 84kg and 120kg qualifications, 1/8 finals, quarterfinals, semifinals, 8 a.m.; men's 60kg, 84kg and 120kg repechage rounds, bronze- and gold-medal contests, 12:45 p.m.

Summary: Jake Herbert has long been considered one of the up-and-coming stars of freestyle wrestling. He failed to make the Beijing Games but was a silver medalist at worlds in 2009 and will have a chance to add some Olympic hardware to his expanding trophy case.

Aug. 12

What: Track and field
Where: At The Mall
Events/When: Men's marathon, 6 a.m.

Summary: Breaking tradition, the marathon will end on the streets of London rather than in the stadium. Athens silver medalist Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall are the top Americans while Kenyan Abel Kirui is the two-time world champ.

What: Men's basketball
Where: At North Greenwich Arena
Events/When: Bronze medal, 6 a.m.; gold medal, 10 a.m.

What: Boxing
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's flyweight (52kg), lightweight (60kg), welterweight (69kg), light heavyweight (81kg) and super heavyweight (91kg-plus) finals, 8:30 a.m.

Summary: Boxing used to be a very big deal for Americans at the Olympics, what with Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard. Can Marcus Brown and Michael Hunter grab U.S. attention again by reaching the finals?

What: Men's volleyball
Where: At Earls Court
Events/When: Bronze-medal match, 4:30 a.m.; gold-medal match, 8 a.m.

What: Men's water polo
Where: At Olympic Park-Water Polo Arena
Events/When: Classification matches (5th-6th, 7th-8th places), 5:20 a.m.; bronze- and gold-medal matches, 9:30 a.m.

Summary: The U.S. men won silver in Beijing. Team captain Tony Azevedo will see whether he can guide the Americans to their first gold in the sport.

What: Wrestling (freestyle)
Where: At ExCeL
Events/When: Men's 66kg and 96kg qualifications, 1/8 finals, quarterfinals, semifinals, 3:30 a.m.; men's 66kg and 96kg repechage rounds, bronze- and gold-medal contests, 7:45 a.m.