Rio Olympics What To Watch For — Opening Weekend August 6–7

A daily guide to can’t-miss Olympic events and Team USA action

The Rio 2016 Olympics are here at last! There’s lots to watch on a million channels, over 6500 hours in all, and it’s tough to keep track of everything — so I’ve put together a handy guide.

It’s not comprehensive; instead it should guide you through the highlights and can’t-miss events each day. It will focus largely on Team USA medal possibilities with an attempt to look in at other big names or interesting events as well. Each event is given 1 to 5 stars (★) to highlight importance. All television viewing times listed are Central Time and are approximate.

Please follow me here on Medium at Brandon Anderson and on Twitter at @wheatonbrando for daily updates as the Olympics continue.

Saturday August 6th

★ Men’s water polo — USA vs Croatia — 8:30am NBC (Central Time)

Let’s start our official experience with a water polo battle. Croatia is one of the favorites as always, so the US faces a difficult test. We are not expected to medal but perhaps an underdog story is in order.

★★★ Women’s rugby sevens — USA vs Fiji — 11am NBCSN

Witness history, the first ever women’s rugby competition at the Olympics! Men’s rugby last featured in 1924 and technically USA is the defending champion, but rugby sevens are a different faster-paced but just as physical game. Matches are only around 20-30 minutes each, so tune in to watch this historical first. New Zealand are the favorite in both men’s and women’s rugby, and other Oceania countries like Fiji field strong teams too.

★ Men’s basketball — France vs Australia — 12pm NBCSN

USA is a big favorite in both men’s and women’s hoops as you might expect, but France and Australia should to be in medal contention. This game is fun for NBA fans who will see Spurs point guards Tony Parker from France and Patty Mills from Australia go head-to-head.

★ Men’s cycling road race —all morning ending around 1pm NBC

NBC will check in and out of this one throughout its coverage as the men trek through a mountainous course in a sprint to the finish. Spain’s Valverde is a favorite for his sprinting ability while Great Britain’s Froome is fresh off his Tour de France win and should be in contention as well. American Taylor Phinney could be in the mix for an early US medal.

★★ Men’s archery team — 8am NBCSN tourney, 2pm MSNBC finals

The team tournament pits 16 teams in a single-elimination bracket, with South Korea a heavy favorite as always, but USA should be in contention for its first medal led by star archer Brady Ellison. Check out the early tournament rounds throughout the morning or watch the finals later on.

★ Men’s beach volleyball — USA Gibb/Patterson vs Qatar — 2pm NBC

Jake Gibb is back at the Olympics with a new partner Casey Patterson. Both American men’s teams and both women’s teams should contend for the top medals, but Brazil has a quartet of dominant teams that are favorites for gold. Beach volleyball is always an entertaining watch and will be better than ever in Brazil where it’s a very popular sport.

★★★★★ Women’s soccer — USA vs France — 3pm NBCSN

USA already won its opening game and this is just a group game, but it’s a possible preview of the gold medal match against powerhouse France featuring star Louisa (Nécib) Cadamuro in her final competition before retirement. USA has dominated women’s soccer at the Olympics with 4 golds and a silver in its 5 competitive cycles. We’re the World Cup champs too — but no defending WC champ has ever won gold. If anyone can make history, it’s these women.

★★ Women’s field hockey — USA vs Argentina — 3pm USA

DVR this one or check in during halftime of the soccer game, but it’s worth a look. Argentina is the favorite and world #1 but lost a year ago to USA at the world championships. Will it be revenge or does USA have their number?

★ Men’s basketball — USA vs China — 5pm NBCSN

USA men’s basketball is always a fun watch, but this one shouldn’t require too much of your attention. We already played China twice in exhibition matches the last couple weeks winning by about 100 combined. Tune in for China’s Yi Jianlian and a first competitive look at Kevin Durant with new Warriors teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

★★★★★ Olympic prime time on NBC — 7pm NBC

Each evening NBC will put together a mix of highlights for you, featuring some live events and some delayed coverage. They’re already choosing some of the top events so it’s always must-see viewing. Expect lots of gymnastics, swimming, and athletics each evening. Saturday night features our first swimming medals, men’s gymnastics, a beach volleyball match, and Bob Costas hopefully without pinkeye.

★★ Women’s beach volleyball — USA Walsh Jennings/Ross vs Australia, 7pm NBC

Time very approximate on this one — it will be indeterminate time during the NBC prime time coverage. Kerri Walsh Jennings is a back-to-back-to-back defending gold medal champion in beach volleyball, but she did it with longtime partner in crime Misty Mae-Treanor. With Misty now retired, Kerri teams up with April Ross to go for gold again. This is an opening match.

★★ Men’s gymnastics qualifying — throughout prime time 7–11pm NBC and 11:30pm NBC

The women’s gymnastics team are the stars, while the men are mostly underdogs for now. Qualifying happens throughout the day and can be seen live online or on some of the channels, but gymnastics is usually best as packaged by NBC. All five US men will compete at all the events to see who will compete in individual events and how the teams stack up.

★ Women’s soccer — Brazil vs Sweden — 8pm NBCSN

This is during the prime time coverage so you may need to DVR or check in on commercial breaks. These are two of the biggest contenders to Team USA with Brazil featuring longtime star Marta and Sweden coached by gold medal winning US coach Pia Sundhage.

★★ Men’s swimming 400m free style — 8pm NBC

The US is not the favorite in any of the swimming tonight, but Connor Jaeger should be in medal contention in the first swimming medal. China’s Sun Yang is the favorite. Catch swimming qualifying heats on NBC in the morning.

★★★ Men’s swimming 400m IM — following, NBC

Japan is the favorite here with both Hagino and Seto looking to win the gold, but the US has won 4 straight golds and will not go quietly. Chase Kalisz is the best American hope. The individual medley features 100m each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, this one all by the same swimmer.

★★★ Women’s swimming 400m IM — 8:45pm NBC

Hungary’s Hosszu is a big gold favorite, but both Americans Maya DiRado and Elizabeth Beisel should be in medal contention.

★★★★ Women’s swimming 4x100m freestyle relay — following, NBC

This is the marquee event on night one. Australia is a favorite but USA should be close and things will reach a fevered pitch if the Americans can keep it close until US star Katie Ledecky closes the final 100m stretch on the freestyle.

Sunday August 7th

★ Women’s beach volleyball — USA Fendrick/Sweat vs Poland — 9:15am NBC (Central Time)

A busy Saturday gives way to a nice easy Sunday, with most of the important events seen in prime time in the evening. Here’s a chance to catch beach volleyball pair Lauren Fendrick and Brook Sweat. They’re the least known of the 4 US beach volleyball pairings and are a medal underdog anyway.

★ Women’s basketball — USA vs Senegal — 10am NBCSN

If you think the men’s basketball team is dominant, you should check out the women. Tune in early as the women’s team is loaded and should put Senegal away very quickly. The women’s competition doesn’t have as much depth, so this is a good chance to get to know this outstanding US team before giving them a break until the knockout tournament.

★ Women’s cycling road race — all morning ending around 1pm NBC

Like Saturday, NBC will check in and out of this one throughout its coverage as the women trek through a mountainous course. It’s a wide open race, and American Megan Guarnier could be in top contention.

★ Men’s beach volleyball — USA Dalhausser/Lucena vs Tunisia — 2pm NBC

Phil Dalhausser is quite recognizable at 6'9 with a gleaming bald head and Oakleys. You know him from the medal stand too since he won gold with Todd Rogers in 2008. He and new partner Nick Lucena look to get things started right in Rio.

★★ Men’s fencing individual foil — 3pm MSNBC

This will be our only check-in to men’s fencing, a sport that can be confusing to watch if you’re new and disappointing if you are into sword fighting. Alexander Massialas was the youngest American male athlete in London at age 14, and he represents the best US chance in Rio for a fencing gold.

★★★★ Men’s tennis — Djokovic (Serbia) vs Del Potro (Argentina) — 4:15pm, Bravo

The tennis schedule isn’t set until the night before, so check back for a confirmed time. The random tennis draw gave us a 2012 bronze rematch in the round of 64 — and Del Potro won last time so you will want to tune in for this one, whenever it is. UPDATE: Match scheduled for 4:15pm.

★★ Men’s basketball — Spain vs Croatia — 4pm NBCSN

Spain is one team that could keep USA from gold, led by NBA stars Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic, and others. Croatia is a fun international team led by last year’s #5 draft pick for the Magic Mario Hezonja and Bojan Bogdanovic of the Nets. 76ers fans (lol) should definitely tune in to get a first look at Croatia’s Dario Saric and Spain’s Sergio Rodriguez, both headed stateside to join the team after the Olympics. And as an added bonus, Croatia just stunned Spain at the Euro soccer tournament so there may be a bit of bad blood carrying over too. A fun one.

★★★★★ Olympic prime time on NBC — 6pm NBC

Sunday night’s prime time package features four more swimming medals, our first look at women’s gymnastics in qualifying, and women’s diving.

★★★★ Women’s gymnastics qualifying — throughout prime time 6–11pm NBC and 11:30pm NBC

These girls are sure to be the stars of the Olympics, led by 3-time world champion Simone Biles and defending gold medal all around champion Gabby Douglas. The two are joined by Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and another returning gold medalist Aly Raisman to form a heck of a quintet. Expect the US to get off to a blazing start, with Biles expected to contend for almost every individual medal and the team a heavy favorite for gold.

★ Men’s soccer — Brazil vs Iraq — 8pm NBCSN

For all its World Cup success, Brazil has never won a men’s soccer gold medal in its marquee sport. They disappointed in their first match with a 0–0 draw, and a loss here would have them on the brink of elimination. Check in on commercials to make sure they take care of a feisty Iraq team.

★★ Women’s swimming 100m butterfly — 8pm NBC

USA is an underdog, but Kelsi Worrell should be in medal contention. UPDATE: Worrell did not qualify, but longtime American swimmer Dana Vollmer could be in contention.

★★ Men’s swimming 100m breaststroke — 8:45pm NBC

Again the US is not favored, but Kevin Cordes may be in top contention. UPDATE: Cordes had the fastest qualifying time.

★★★★ Women’s swimming 400m freestyle — 9pm NBC

This is star Katie Ledecky’s first shot at individual gold, and she’s a heavy favorite. Ledecky is aiming to break the US women’s record of 4 individual golds at one Olympics, and she’s the world record holder in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m free. She’s so dominant that opponents often consider a race successful if they can still see her ahead of them when she finishes.

★★★★★ Men’s swimming 4x100m freestyle relay — 9:45pm NBC

Today’s marquee event should be one of the closest swimming events. This is Michael Phelps’s first chance at a medal in 2016 and you surely remember some of the drama from his past Olympic relay finishes. France is the slight favorite and beat the US in 2012, so the Americans are out for revenge.

Please follow me here on Medium at Brandon Anderson and on Twitter at @wheatonbrando for daily updates as the Olympics continue.

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Follow Brandon on Medium or @wheatonbrando for more sports, humor, pop culture, and life musings. Visit the rest of Brandon’s writing archives here. Shout out to Aria and Wes for their help getting things together for this Olympics guide.

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