The 2012 Summer Olympics finally kick off in London tonight with a massive opening ceremony, but the spectacle of the interpretive dancing and fireworks isn't the only part of this two-week sporting extravaganza that's worth watching. Even if you don't know Usain Bolt from Michael Phelps, here are plenty of reasons to tune in:
10. Some Off-the-Wall Events
The bigger sports get the lion's share of the media attention, but there are a multitude of oddball sports that people medal in. Trampoline, table tennis, badminton, canoeing, BMX biking and synchronized swimming... there's really something for everyone, and now thanks to the Internet, you don't have to watch them at four in the morning anymore.
9. Royal Watching
There's a good chance that Kate Middleton and some of the other members of the British royal family will be at a lot of the big events, so keep your eyes peeled for some fabulous dresses, great hats and maybe even Pippa's much buzzed-about behind.
8. The Patriotic Feeling
Regardless of which country you're from or live in, it's a bit thrilling to see how athletes from your nation fare and to watch the medal counts rise. Much like World Cup soccer, you may find yourself irrationally screaming your head off for someone whose name you didn't know a week ago.
7. The Gymnastics
Let's be honest, while track and field is great and swimming and diving get a lot of airtime, the sport that most people will watch are women's gymnastics. You know you want to see these pint-sized girls doing torturous-looking things to themselves on the uneven bars or the balance beam. Just don't try any of it at home.
6. You'll Sound Smart in Four Years
Chances are that if you pay close attention to this year's Olympics, then in four years when the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games roll around, you can throw out a few key names and drop some knowledge about various rules and regulations to impress your friends.
5. All the Drama
Half of the fascination with the Olympics comes from all of the TV packages with the backstories on the athletes leading into the events. Will someone overcome some massive adversity in order to compete? Will someone's lifelong dream be shattered during a 30-second race? Will people act like bad sports if they don't medal? Will anyone be disqualified? It's practically a soap opera.
4. The Phelps/Lochte Rivalry
It's Michael Phelps' last Olympics (or so he's said), so he's going to try and go out with more than a few more gold medals. If you didn't watch the weeklong Olympic swimming trials a month ago, you may not be aware of the "rivalry" between him and Ryan Lochte. But they are going head-to-head in a number of contests, with Lochte trying to snatch gold for himself. Be prepared to hear a lot about this duel in the pool.
3. You'll Know Who They Are on Dancing With the Stars
Long past are the days when Summer Sanders had to rely on Figure It Out to further her fame, and Brian Boitano stayed in the spotlight because of South Park. Now, American gold medalists inevitably end up on Dancing With the Stars or sometimes Celebrity Apprentice, so you might as well get to know them now.
2. More Scantily Clad Guys With Awesome Abs Than Magic Mike, Along With Girls in Bikinis
The speedos that the men wear for diving and swimming leave little to the imagination, and there are abs to spare on most of these guys. Channing Tatum looks doughy by comparison. And while it's hard to argue with the entertainment value of Magic Mike, it's even more impressive to watch these hard-bodied athletes push themselves to the limit. And who will judge you for checking out women in bikinis bouncing around on the beach when there's an Olympic gold medal for beach volleyball at stake? No one, that's who.
1. Nothing Else Is On
Not entirely true, but NBC is completely monopolized by sporting events, and shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dance Moms took two weeks off in order to avoid the ratings competition. So you might as well watch the ridiculous vaults and twisting dives instead of whining about not missing out on Suits and Abby Lee Miller.
Get complete 24/7 coverage, including news, results and live video, of the London 2012 Summer Olympics at NBCOlympics.com.
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