The games of the 30th Olympiad are set to start in London on Friday, July 27, and NPR will be there in force. Tom Goldman and Howard Berkes, who have covered ten and eight Olympic games respectively, will be joined by Olympic newbie Mike Pesca. Phil Reeves will be the man about town, covering security and all that's happening outside the gates. And Vickie Walton-James, NPR's Deputy National Editor, will be there editing, coordinating, blogging and trying to catch a glimpse of (maybe) the world's fastest man-Usain Bolt.
The games promise to be fascinating. Storylines range from veteran American swimmer Michael Phelps trying for seven gold medals to South African runner Oscar Pistorius becoming the first blade runner to compete in the games. For the first time, the U.S. will send more women than men to the Olympics. They include: The women's soccer team, hoping to avenge their heartbreaking loss to Japan in 2008 and McKayla Maroney, a 16-year-old vaulter favored to win gold. Women's boxing and weightlifting should also be exciting.
And then, there are the settings. Some of Europe's most historic venues will serve as the athletes' playgrounds. The famous Horse Guards Parade, which hosted jousting in the time of Henry VIII, is now covered with 2,000 tons of sand for beach volleyball. Lord's Cricket Ground will host American archers Brady Ellison, the top-ranked in the world, and Khatuna Lorig, of Hunger Games fame. And, of course, there's Wembley and Wimbledon.
Here are a few stories NPR will be following:
- Track and Field-Is the Lightning Bolt healthy? And if he isn't the world's fastest man, who is? Meanwhile, sprinter Allyson Felix's recent photo-finish tie with Jeneba Tarmoh provided just a hint of the likely drama ahead in the women's events. The Americans will face challenges from Jamaica and Botswana.
- Swimming-Michael Phelps has said this is his last Olympics and it may be a tough one. USA teammate, Ryan Lochte is eager to emerge from Phelps' shadow.
- Doping-U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin is among the athletes trying for an Olympic comeback after being banned for doping. The U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo was just warned after failing a recent drug test. Tom Goldman covers all things doping.
- Social Media-The tweeting, the streaming, instagram, Facebook. NPR will cover it. And even use a bit of it themselves.
- The impact of the games, the crowds and the new venues on London's lifestyle and economy.
- USA Men's Basketball-A compressed NBA season left lots of players injured, posing some challenges to Olympic Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Is this team a dream?
- Technology- Redesigned swimsuits for racers, new cameras for synchronized swimmers…How can that not be interesting?
- Random questions: Will serious athletes patronize the huge new McDonald's? Why are the Olympic mascots so weird?
NPR's Olympic blog is called The Torch and those in London will try to file early and often. In addition to the sports mentioned above, they'll be watching men's and women's boxing, steeplechase, water polo, wrestling, shooting, weight lifting, judo, gymnastics and many, many others. Dressage, anyone? Ann Romney has a horse competing.
The games begin on July 27 with filmmaker Danny Boyle's opening ceremonies. Beijing will be a tough act to follow.