London 2012 is ready, set, go | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 26.07.2012
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London 2012 is ready, set, go

Years of planning and meticulous attention to detail will bear fruit for the UK as the London Olympics get underway this weekend. With medals at stake in 302 events, German athletes have their eyes on more than one.

The Olympic torch has nearly completed its long journey around the United Kingdom, the 10,000-plus athletes are settled into the Olympic village, and even the gloomy British weather looks like it might take a warm - though perhaps somewhat stormy - turn for Friday's opening ceremony: London 2012 has arrived.

Organizers went out of their way to make these games feel special for locals, with the Olympic flame passing within an hour of 95 percent of every person in the UK. Three quarters of the 11 million total tickets for Olympic events were reserved for Britons as well.

But that doesn't mean these Olympics are any less international than past Games. There are a total of 204 National Olympic Committees being represented in London, and the athletes will compete in 26 sports.

High hopes for Germany

Germany is sending just under 400 athletes to the Olympics. That's fewer than the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) sent to Beijing, but the hopes are still high that the team will be able to match the success it had in China four years ago.

ARCHIV - Handout provided by the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) shows the Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins. The front of the medal depicts the imagery of the Greek Goddess Nike while the back features the logo of the London Olympic Games 2012. EPA/LOCOG HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES (zu dpa-Themenpaket zu den Olympischen Spielen in London 2012 vom 10.07.2012) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

British artist David Watkins designed the medals

All told, Germany took home 41 medals - the fifth highest total of any country. Sixteen were gold, ten silver, and 15 bronze.

Historically, Germany is best in track and field, rowing, and swimming at the Olympics - and there are medal hopefuls in each of those disciplines in London, too.

On the track, the field events are where the Germans are most likely to excel. Robert Harting, for example, is the two-time world champion in the discus and the odds on favorite in the event for London. Nadine Kleinart, a silver medalist at this summer's European championships in Helsinki, could also find a place on the podium in the shot put.

One of Germany's most successful athletes from Beijing is back to try and defend her two gold medals. Britta Steffen was the Olympic champion in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events and will swim both in London.

Germany's Paul Biedermann gives a thumbs up after winning the 200 meter Freestyle final at the European Swimming Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. (AP Photo/ Michael Sohn)

Biedermann is ready to make waves in London

She can count on at least one die-hard fan in the stands - her boyfriend and fellow German swimmer Paul Biedermann. In Beijing, Biedermann was fifth in the 200m freestyle, but has since set world records in that event and the 400m freestyle which hold to this day.

Other events with defending German champions include men's field hockey - a rare success among what are generally poor performances by Germany in team sports - women's modern pentathlon (Lena Schöneborn), and men's triathlon (Jan Frodeno). Germany also won several medals in equestrian and rowing events at the Games in Beijing.

From veterans to first-timers

London 2012 will certainly have its share of superstars, like Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, but many barely-known athletes are setting fans abuzz with their remarkable stories.

Sprinter Oscar Pistorius will become the first double amputee in the history of the Olympics after it was ruled that his two below-the-knee prosthetics do not give him an advantage in competition. He'll start on South Africa's 4x400 meter relay team.

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa runs in the men's 400 meters race at the Diamond League New York Grand Prix athletics meet in this June 9, 2012 file photo. Double amputee Pistorius will compete in the individual 400 metres and the 4x400 relay team for South Africa at the London Olympics, a member of the country's Olympic federation said on July 4, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS OLYMPICS)

Pistorius is known as the 'Blade Runner'

Saudi Arabia becomes the final national Olympic committee to send female athletes to the Olympics after an announcement earlier this month that it would send Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 17-year-old Sarah Attar, an 800-meter runner, to London.

Marathon runner Guor Marial received the good news at the last minute that he would be allowed to compete in the race despite not having a country to call his own. Marial, who was born in Sudan but fled violence against his family in the 1980s during civil war, will compete as an independent under the Olympic flag. He has lived in the US for some time but does not yet qualify to run as an American. Marial does not want to compete for Sudan, the country he blames for the loss of 28 family members, while South Sudan - which he considers his home country - has not set up an Olympic committee since gaining independence from Sudan last year.

Deep down, Marial feels like the first athlete to represent South Sudan at the Olympics, even if he won't be competing under their flag. But whether it's a one man show from South Sudan, a few hundred Germans hoping to increase their medal haul from Bejing, or millions of Britons cheering on the host-nation's athletes, the London Olympics are sure to be memorable.

Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Mark Hallam

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