Summer Olympics

Sports fans prepare to cheer on a record medal-haul

The Summer Olympic Games are set to begin in the vibrant Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro on the 5th of August. Always one of the most-watched, most talked-about sporting events, this year’s Olympics promises to hold extra interest for viewers in this country—as Team South Africa aims to bring home a record number of medals from Rio.

What makes the Olympics so special?

In terms of history and wideness of participation, there is simply no other sporting event to rival the Olympics. First held in Ancient Athens nearly 3,000 years ago, the modern Summer Olympic Games have a history stretching back to 1894. They have been televised since 1936—the infamous Berlin Games, where Jesse Owen became sprinting’s first household name—and these days, the Olympics dominate sport and news coverage every four years, as people from around the globe tune in to the coverage and follow the buzz on Twitter (#Rio2016).

South African swimming champ, Chad Le Clos

This year, there will be a record 206 countries participating in the Rio games—and, as a symbol of the event’s mandate to bring people together across political divides for the love of sport—a 207th Refugee Olympic Team will also take part.

From the Carnival-inspired opening ceremony to the many moments of sporting excellent that will grace our screens over the 16 days of competition, prepare to be swept up in the excitement as the world fixes its attention on Rio.

South Africa’s prospects

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee (SASCOC) has been in bullish mood ahead of the Rio games, launching a social media campaign with the inspirational tag ‘Rise’. Word from the top is that Team South Africa is in a position, this year, to improve on its best-ever medal tally (at least since readmission). That figure currently stands at 6 (with three gold medals), achieved at the London Olympic Games four years ago.

South African athletes who are in strong contention for medals in Rio include Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh (swimming); sprinting sensation Wayde van Niekerk on the track, our quartet of fantastic triathletes, Richard Murray, Mari Rabi, Gillian Sanders and Henri Schoeman; our rowing teams; our Rugby 7s team; and Jaco van Zyl, who is our sole golfer at the Games, despite the sport being reintroduced to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

Over and above these expected performers, there are bound to be some great surprises in store—and perhaps Rio will see the birth of a brand-new South African Olympic hero, such as Josia Thugwane or Penny Heyns in 1996, Roland Schoeman in 2004 or Caster Semanya in 2012.

What to diarise

Supersport is offering ‘wall to wall’ coverage of this year’s Olympic Games—so there’s literally nothing you won’t be able to follow as the action unfolds in Rio.

serena williamsKeep abreast of a couple of interesting sub-plots at this year’s event. Usain Bolt, the world’s most humble superhuman, aims to sign off on his Olympic career with an unprecedented ‘Triple Triple’—that’s three gold medals (100m, 200m, 4X100m relay) in three consecutive Olympic Games. The men’s 100m and 400m finals will be run on Sunday the 14th of August.

Likewise, Serena Williams—who is chasing down Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles before she retires—has the chance to become the sport’s all-time record Olympic medal winner when she defends her singles title in Rio. The women’s singles final will be played on Saturday the 13th of August.

Other events to add to your diary include:

  • Most the swimming finals, where South Africa has historically performed extremely well, will take place between Monday the 8th and Friday the 12th of August.
  • Golf makes its long-awaited return to the Olympics on Thursday the 11th of August.
  • Watch South Africa’s rowers aim for top prize, with gold medal races beginning on Wednesday the 10th and continuing to Saturday the 13th.
  • The athletics program begins to heat up from the 13th of August, with men’s long jump finals, the men’s 10km and the women’s 100m final.
  • Triathlon medals will be up for grabs on Thursday the 18th (men’s), and Saturday the 20th (women’s).
  • Although neither of them is likely to feature South Africa, unfortunately, the football gold medal matches always draw enormous audiences. The women’s final is on Friday the 19th of August, and the men’s will be played the day after.