London’s calling you to watch the greatest sporting event in the world, starting next Friday. And not that you need another reason to tune in to the 2012 Summer Olympics besides the fact that the entire planet will be watching, but here are 30 more that should sway you anyway.
1. Watch History. London is the first city in the world to host the Olympics three separate times. Third time’s a charm!
2. Expect Spectacular. London is on track to stage the most expensive Games since 1996, complete with 34 venues, including four new ones: the VeloPark, Aquatics Centre, Basketball Arena, and of course, the Olympic Stadium.
3. Bring on the Bling. 4,700 medals will be awarded – and they’re so significant that they’re stashed in secure vaults at the Tower of London. Fun fact: Did you know the gold medal is made of more silver than gold? It’s 92.5 percent silver, and 1.34 percent gold. The rest is copper.
4. Watch Nigeria’s Olympic Basketball Team, who qualified in spectacular fashion and have been grouped with the US team of NBA stars.
5. Edge-of-Your-Seat Stories. Beyond the live action, the powerful tales of each athlete’s personal journey draw many viewers in. Here are three remarkable ones about redemption:
6. Track star Lolo Jones was cruising to win gold in Beijing when her right foot landed on top of the next-to-last hurdler. She placed seventh in a race that should’ve been in the bag. Four years later, she’s back. (Did we mention she’s on our list of the 12 Sexiest Olympian Women? Find out who else joins her.)
7. Swimmer Jessica Hardy was at the top of her sport when a positive drug test for clenbuterol knocked her off the 2008 Olympic team. She has proved her innocence and is back to finish what she started.
8. Swimmer Eric Shanteau, who famously put off treatment for testicular cancer to compete in Beijing, returns to these Games cancer-free.
9. Rivalries. Ryan Lochte proved he can beat Michael Phelps – a.k.a. the world’s greatest swimmer – at the U.S. Trials in June and the 2011 World Championships, where he finished with four individual gold medals compared to Phelps’s two. Is he the man who can take down an Olympic legend?
10. Usain Bolt. Twice beated by Yohan Blake, but our money’s on him smashing all competitors.
11. Catch Golf’s Initiation Party. To celebrate the sport’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics (Brazil, baby!), pro golfers Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia will drive golf balls from a floating barge in the River Thames through one of five Olympic Rings on Today.
12. Are You Ready for Some Football? U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (featuring Dancing with the Stars babe Hope Solo) will shoot for its third straight gold at Wembley, the world’s largest roof-covered football stadium. Will the team make up for its disappointing loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final?
13. It’s the Talk of the Town. Some 4 billion are expected to watch the opening and closing ceremonies – that’s more than 36 times the amount of people who tuned into the Super Bowl. Miss this, and you might as well change your address to “under a rock.”
14. Opening Ceremony or Circus? Of the 15,000 people who will take part in the three-hour July 27 event, Opening Ceremony artistic director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) has only confirmed 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep, and three sheepdogs for the Isles of Wonder-themed opening scene.
15. Follow the Flame. During the 70-day relay, the iconic Olympic flame has traveled 8,000 miles and passed through the hands of 8,000 torchbearers including Man vs. Wild star Bear Grylls, X-Men: First Class actor James McAvoy, nine-time Grammy winner John Legend, and Nigeria’s own Sasha.
16. Get Your Fish and Chips On. That’s what gymnast Gabrielle Douglas and cyclist Timmy Duggan plan to do once they finish competing at the Games. (Want delicious recipes and smart food swaps delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our free Eat This, Not That! newsletter.)
17. Smarten Up. According to a University of Chicago study, watching or listening to a sports game may activate a part of your brain that improves communication. Scientists asked 12 hockey players, eight hockey fans, and nine people who had never seen or played the sport to listen to a broadcast of a game while a machine recorded brain activities. Afterward, they were tested to analyze their comprehension. The results? Athletes and fans experienced brain activity in motor areas associated with planning, controlling and performing.
18. Learn to Fail Gracefully. With 10,490 competing athletes and only 4,700 medals, you’re bound to see a lot more losses than wins. Tune in to see who handles disappointment with integrity – and who doesn’t.
19. Let’s Hear It for the Girls. Fresh off the heels of the 40th anniversary of Title IX (the legislation that banned sex discrimination in athletics and academics), the Olympics will introduce two new disciplines giving women more chances to medal: women’s boxing and tennis mixed doubles (last featured at the 1924 Games).
20. Save Money. If you’re lucky enough to see the Games live, save your cash with the first-ever “Games-time charter” – an agreement between more than 59 big-name locations, including the Tower of London and Kensington Palace, plus some pubs and restaurants (see the complete list here) to keep prices low.
21. Bond with Your Bros. Watching the Olympics with your buds and rooting for the home team together will bring you closer – it helps you feel connected and supported. Having a healthy friendship may also help you live longer by 50 percent, according to a Brigham Young University. (For more great up-to-the-minute health tips, follow Men’s Health on Twitter!)
22. Who Will Light the Cauldron? Queen Elizabeth, who just celebrated her 60th anniversary as the Queen of England? David Beckham? (Though he did get snubbed by the British Olympic soccer team.) Our vote: Dumbledore. Who better to fire up a cauldron than a wizard?
23. Double-Amputee’s Double Whammy. Having his lower legs amputated at 11 months old hasn’t slowed down South African track star Oscar Pistorius. The Oakley athlete just made history by becoming the first disabled athlete to participate in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. (Learn from an Olympian: Get Oscar Pistorius’s Running Lessons.)
24. Beatlemania Continues. Sir Paul McCartney finally confessed to BBC radio in June that he’ll perform at the opening ceremonies. Rumor has it he’s going to have the 60,000 spectators, including the Queen, sing along to “Hey Jude.”
25. Pick Up a New Sport. Only five of the 26 sports represented at the Games have been in every single modern Olympic Games: cycling, fencing, gymnastics, swimming, and track & field. Tune in to watch the other 21 – maybe you’ll walk away with a new hobby.
26. Sneak a Peak at the Athlete’s Village. The Village has enough room to house 17,000 competitors and officials. The quirkiest part? A British pub with pool tables, live music, karaoke – but no beer. It serves only two drinks: Coca-Cola and Powerade.
27. Saudi Arabia’s Surprise. For the first time, Saudi Arabia will send two women to London to compete. This means that every National Olympic Committee will now have sent women to the Olympics.
28. Body-and-Earth-Conscious Uniforms. Nike’s bright red USA track & field uniforms are made from recycled plastic bottles. Even more: The company claims the skin-tight Pro TurboSpeed Suit’s aerodynamic technology can shave up to 0.023 seconds off a 100m sprint time – possibly the difference of where one stands on the podium.
29. See Sparks Fly. The Olympic Village and venues are infamously known for being a fun, flirty place. Case in point: Game organizers stocked the Village with 150,000 condoms.
30. Take a U.K. Tour. Venues aren’t restricted to the 620-square-mile city limits. They’re spread across the U.K. with football in Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Coventry; sailing in Weymouth; mountain biking in Essex; rowing at Eton Dorney; and canoe slalom in Hertfordshire.