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With the 2016 Rio Olympics only weeks away, summertime Christmas is almost here. But before that rolls around, we have summertime Black Friday.
NBC has released its official TV schedule for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Like a department store on Black Friday, NBC has promised to provide events that are guaranteed to engage the entire family.
However, if you’ve ever stepped into the battlefield that is a Black Friday sale at a department store, there are just as many dud gifts as stud gifts. Looking at NBC’s TV schedule can be overwhelming, but there are storylines that you will regret missing if you’re slow to the remote.
Here are some events that will help the Rio Olympics feel like Christmas in August.
Women’s soccer – USA vs. New Zealand. NBC Sports Network/6 p.m. EST
Wait, there are events before the opening ceremony? Think Christmas Eve presents before Santa Claus rolls in for the real thing. The U.S. women are coming into the tournament as the world’s best team according to the latest FIFA rankings, a status built mostly on their World Cup win last year.
This match against New Zealand might not be the toughest game the U.S. Women’s National Team will play this tournament, but the team will wow you with its elite skills in its first game of the Olympics.
Hope Solo will be back in her familiar position between the goalposts. Solo recently became the first goalkeeper to record 100 international shutouts when the USWNT beat South Africa 1-0 on July 14.
With players like like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and World Cup hat tricker Carli Lloyd helping her up front, Team USA looks primed to win its fourth-straight Olympic gold medal.
Men’s soccer – Brazil vs. South Africa. NBC Sports Network/3 p.m. EST
In another pre-opening ceremony treat, host country Brazil will begin a campaign to salvage its international reputation. A nightmare 7-1 loss in the 2014 World Cup and a poor showing at Copa America has the Brazilians on the ropes, but they have a savior that can bring them back into the spotlight.
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior – known as Neymar to just about everyone – will be leading the Brazilian National Team for this tournament. The current Barcelona forward selected the Olympics instead of the Copa America to be his one summer tournament, suggesting that this event may mean a lot to him.
Brazil should not have difficulty dispatching South Africa, but Brazil has been so inconsistent that anything could happen during this opening match. Will Neymar show the brilliance that got him mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as a potential 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, or will Brazil fall flat as it has done in its last few international competitions?
Opening ceremony. NBC/7:30 p.m. EST
Duh. Even though the Olympics are built on competition, the pageantry of the games is really shown in the opening ceremony. Sometimes, the opening ceremony can be an indicator of good things to come.
Beijing’s awesome display in 2008 was a precursor to an incredible Olympic Games that saw Michael Phelps win eight gold medals, Usain Bolt cruise to a world record and the Redeem Team, well, redeem. Then again, it isn’t always positive.
Either way, whether you’re hoping to watch beautiful visuals or a train wreck, the opening ceremony is not something to pass up.
Women’s volleyball – USA vs. Puerto Rico. NBC/4:15 p.m. EST
Always the sous chef, but never the chef. USA volleyball has gotten close to the top of the mountain in the last two olympics, only to fall just short with consecutive silver medals. This year could be different.
The U.S. women are coming into the Olympics as the best team in the world, and they won their first international competition recently in 2014 when they captured the World Championship.
The frantic pace of volleyball, along with the hard hits and athletic defensive plays will be one of the more exciting sports to watch. With Team USA in a position to win the entire tournament, there will be even more reason to enjoy this high-flying sport.
Women’s swimming – 400-meter freestyle final. NBC/7 p.m. EST
This might as well be called the Katie Ledecky event. Actually, a lot of the freestyle swims on the women’s side could carry that name. She’s that good.
The swimming sensation made a splash at the 2012 Olympics when she won the 800-meter freestyle by more than four seconds at 15 years old. This could be the Olympics where she separates herself as one of the greatest swimmers of all time.
This is the first of Ledecky’s three individual swims, where she is looking to be the first woman since Debbie Meyer in 1968 to win gold medals in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle. After sweeping the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter and 1500-meter events at the 2015 World Championships, that accomplishment won’t be out of reach.
Women’s fencing – Individual saber round of 32. NBCSN/9 a.m. EST
It’s honestly surprising that the sport of fencing has not caught fire around the world. Fast-twitch muscles, emotional celebrations and duels with swords – what’s not to love?
Aside from the athletic ability of the women that will be competing, there will be an interesting first for the Olympics. Ibtihaj Muhammad will be the first Muslim-American athlete to compete with a hijab. She’s no slouch on fencing strip either, ranking as high as No. 7 in the world in the 2015-2016 season.
Also featured during this slot is two-time Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, who is also representing the United States. Either athlete may advance to the final round, which will be broadcasted at 3 p.m. EST the same day.
Men’s swimming – 200-meter butterfly final. NBC/8 p.m. EST
This is beginning of the end for Michael Phelps. The five-time Olympics participant, and 22-time Olympic medalist, is competing for presumably the last time and it starts with his signature event.
Phelps looked a little rusty during the Olympic Trials, and definitely not like the world-record holder that set the world on fire in 2008 and 2012. However, with nothing left to hold back, he may still have some of that Olympic magic left to get a couple more medals.
No matter what happens, Phelps will leave a dominant legacy as the most decorated Olympian ever. But it wouldn’t be terrible to add to that trophy case.
Gymnastics – Women’s individual all-around final. NBC/8 p.m. EST
Individual gymnastics has been the United States’ jam for the past few Olympics, where the U.S. has won three-straight all-around individual gold medals. This year isn’t supposed to be any different.
Simone Biles comes in as a heavy favorite to win the all-around individual event, following in the footsteps of U.S. gymnasts Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas before her. The explosive gymnast comes in already decorated with 14 world championship medals and three all-around titles in the last three years.
The gold is there for Biles to take. All she has to do is finish.
Track and field – Men’s 100-meter final. NBC/7 p.m. EST
Usain Bolt. Is there anymore that needs to be said?
One of the most entertaining, and talented athletes to ever participate in the Olympics will be looking to close out his career in legendary fashion. Bolt is hoping to become the first three-time gold medalist in the 100-meter sprint event, where he holds the world record at a blistering 9.58 seconds.
Joining him at the starting line may be 2004 gold medalist Justin Gatlin. The decorated American sprinter is looking to end Bolt’s domination in the event and reclaim the fastest man title for the United States.
Basketball – Men’s gold medal game. NBC/2:15 p.m. EST
Oh, you thought I forgot about basketball?
Sure, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and a number of NBA superstars chose to pass this year for one reason or another, but that’s the great thing about Team USA Basketball: The talent doesn’t dip too far. And with the rest of the world aging and some players perhaps missing because of injury, the U.S. is looking good to waltz into the gold medal game untouched.
The world will see a little preview of the how-the-heck-did-that-happen Golden State Warriors with newly acquired superstar Kevin Durant joining Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the red, white and blue.
Team USA will also be saying goodbye head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is coaching the team for the last time at the Olympics. What better way to do it than with a gold medal?