The 2012 London Olympics are right around the corner, with the Games set to begin in late July.The world’s best athletes will be competing in 302 events in 26 different sports, ranging from canoeing to basketball to judo.
In the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony on July 27th, we’ll introduce you to some of the must-watch Olympic events. Today, it’s all about the football (the official Olympic name for the event, not “soccer”).
Football is one of the longest running events at the Olympics, at least on the men's side. The first Olympic tournament was played in Paris in the 1900 Olympic Games, with a Great Britain amateur club winning the gold medal.
The women's event was added in 1996. Team USA has made the gold medal game in every Olympics since, winning three golds and one silver.
The men's tournament includes 16 teams in four groups (Team USA failed to qualify), and the women's tournament includes 12 teams in three groups.
Due to the stature of the World Cup as the premier football tournament, the International Olympic Committee has uniquely structured the Olympic tournament to stand apart from the World Cup via an age rule.
In the men's tournament, all team members must be 23 years old or younger, with three slots available for designated players over 23.
The focus on younger players levels the playing field somewhat, allowing nations that usually aren't competitive at the World Cup to succeed.
The last four winners of the men's tournament are Nigeria, Cameroon, and Argentina, which won gold in 2004 and 2008.
Brazil is undoubtedly the favourite, fielding a strong team that includes superstar Neymar, as well as Hulk, Lucas and Alexandre Pato.
Great Britain is tied for the most gold medals as a country in the men's event with three. Hungary also has three gold medals.
The women's tournament has no age restriction on rosters, so the tournament is more or less the same as the Women's World Cup.
Team USA stars Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Abby Wambach will be in London this summer to try and win the nation's fourth gold medal.
To maximise attendance, the matches are spread across venues throughout Great Britain. There are six Olympic stadiums in 2012, including Old Trafford in Manchester.
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