Friday, August 5, marks the start of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
For months, people questioned whether the games would actually take place. Would the Olympic Park be ready in time? Would the Zika virus prove too dangerous for the athletes and spectators? Would the political turmoil and economic collapse bring the entire event to a standstill?
But now those questions come to an end as athletes, tourists, dignitaries, and journalists from around the world gather in Rio to kick off two weeks of sporting competition, in an Olympic Games expected to draw billions of viewers worldwide.
The 2016 Olympics will run from August 5 until August 21 and will feature 42 sports, 306 total events, 136 medals for women, and 161 medals for men. About 10,500 athletes are expected to compete at the Olympics in Rio, including the first Olympic team composed entirely of refugees.
Here is a guide to the next two weeks:
How to watch:
More than 2,000 hours of Olympic events are scheduled to air over the course of the next two weeks. While not all events will be aired on TV, NBC is slated to stream an additional 4,500 hours of Olympic coverage on its website, with concurrent streams for competitions going on at the same time. However, after a 30-minute grace period, NBC will require users to log on with their TV provider.
Rio 2016 also has an official YouTube page with clips.
Opening ceremony: Friday, August 5, at 7 pm Eastern at the Maracanã Stadium (NBC will stream the show at a one-hour delay on the East Coast, at 8 pm Eastern, and at a four-hour delay on the West Coast, at 8 pm Pacific)
While most of the events will start on or after the opening ceremony, the Olympic games kicked off on August 3 with soccer. The US women’s soccer team won its Olympic opening match against New Zealand. (The US men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the Olympics this year.)
The much-anticipated women’s gymnastics all-around final is scheduled for Thursday, August 11, at 3 pm Eastern.
Closing Ceremony: Sunday, August 21, at 7 pm Eastern at Maracanã Stadium
Here is the full schedule of sporting events.
What to expect:
The 2016 Rio Olympics comes at a difficult time for Brazil. As Vox’s Libby Nelson explained, Brazil is in a much different place than it was when it won the Olympics bid in the late 2000s. Then it had a growing economy and a shrinking unemployment rate. Since that time, the country has entered the worst recession in its history; the president, Dilma Rousseff, is awaiting impeachment trials for campaign finance corruption; and the country’s political foundation is still recovering from a separate, even larger multibillion–dollar corruption scandal involving many top government figures (not to mention the recent spread of Zika plaguing South America).
But even with these obstacles, and many others associated with building an Olympic Park from the ground up, the Rio Olympics also brings some high points: the introduction of the first refugee team, with 10 athletes from conflict zones across the globe competing in judo, swimming, and track and field; the introduction of rugby sevens to the Olympics; a final go at Olympic gold from American swimming favorite Michael Phelps; and a much-anticipated gymnastics matchup between 2012 American Olympic gold medal winner Gabby Douglas and first-time American Olympian Simone Biles.
As the first South American country to host the Olympics, Brazil has a lot at stake. But with all the problems that have plagued the country in the runup to the games, expectations are low. And that might very well play in its favor.