The Olympics are an exciting thing. It may be because they only come around every couple of years. Or because you get to watch athletes compete for your country. Or maybe even another reason.
But the fact is, they’re seriously exciting. Here are 16 reasons you should watch the Rio Olympic Games:
These Olympics probably will be Michael Phelps’ farewell games (well, maybe … remember, he did retire from Olympic competition once already — after the 2012 London Games). Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals (18 gold), will compete in four events in Rio. Phelps, who has competed in the past four Olympics, was also selected to carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony — a ceremony he has never participated in.
U.S. WOMEN’S SOCCER TEAM
The U.S. team is looking for its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal and fifth in the past games.
The team also has a chance to make a World Cup-Olympics sweep, winning the World Cup and the Olympics in consecutive summers — something no country has ever done.
The Zika virus is a major concern for anyone attending the games. Rio de Janeiro has been heavily impacted by the virus, and many athletes have chosen not to travel to the country over the concerns. Athletes, and others, were advised to take precautions to protect themselves from contracting the virus while in Rio.
Many Russian athletes have had to do a lot of waiting in the past couple of months amid the country’s doping scandal. In July, the International Olympic Committee chose to allow each sports federation to determine if Russian athletes could compete in the Rio Games instead of instituting a blanket ban for the entire country.
Many Russian athletes have been cleared to compete, including almost 80 more Thursday, but there are still many that won’t be traveling to represent their country. Reuters reported Thursday that the country hopes to have 272 to 280 athletes competing.
The opening ceremony airs Friday night — not live — but whether you like watching each country’s athletes walk through the arena before taking their seats, the performances by the home country or the lighting of the cauldron, there will be plenty to get you hyped for the games.
For the first time in Olympic history, the games will feature a refugee team. The team consists of 10 athletes competing for no country but for the Olympic flag itself. The team, the ROT (Refugee Olympic Team), is from four countries and will compete in three sports.
ANYONE CAN WATCH
You don’t have to have cable to watch the Olympics. Many of the events will be streamed live on NBC’s Olympic website. And if you have a digital antenna, you might pick up your local NBC channel to watch. Just beware: All but the last two competition telecasts on KSNV-3 in Las Vegas will be tape-delayed by three hours.
The Olympic medal count is a fun way to get excited about the games and stay into them through the two-plus weeks. Not only can you watch the medal count for each country rise as they get started, but you can also see the last games’ standings and the all-time standings on NBCOlympics.com. The United States leads the all-time standings with 2,404 medals — 976 gold, 759.5 silver and 668.5 bronze.
SERENA AND VENUS
Tennis star sisters Serena and Venus Williams will compete in singles and as a team in doubles. Serena is chasing her second consecutive gold medal in singles. The sisters have won gold in doubles in three of the past four Olympics.
KERRI WALSH JENNINGS
Kerri Walsh Jennings won’t have Misty May-Treanor with her in the sand in Rio, and it’s the first time the American volleyball player will compete with anyone else at the Olympics. Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have taken home gold in the past three Summer Games, but it will be up to April Ross, her new partner in Rio, to help them get to the podium. Ross won the silver medal in London with partner Jennifer Kessy.
Las Vegas’ Vashti Cunningham is the local athlete to watch. She is the 18-year-old daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham. She will compete in the high jump and is expected to be a medal contender. There will be a handful of other athletes in Rio with connections to Las Vegas.
We could see Pele, a three-time World Cup champion and widely considered the greatest soccer player of all time, lighting the cauldron for his home country Friday at the opening ceremony — but it’s not official. Pele, speaking at an event in Rio this week, said he had been invited to light the Olympic cauldron, but a travel issue with a sponsor may prevent him from participating.
There’s not much explaining necessary here, you know what we’re talking about. Just watch the opening ceremony.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won’t be there, so you’ll get a bit of a break from the race to the White House if you only watch the Olympics for the next couple of weeks.
Golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years, though many of the world’s top golfers — Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and more — won’t be present because of Zika concerns. Forty-one countries will be competing.
This Olympic Games, 554 athletes will represent the U.S. and compete in 27 sports. Plus, 365 are first-time Olympians. Team USA will send 292 females athletes, the most by any nation in a single games.
Contact Kira Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter: @kiraterry