PARIS—Whether we’re ready for it or not, my friends, Rio is upon us. The summer Olympics can be completely overwhelming for the average spectator, with more than 40 sports crammed into two weeks of action. Is it possible to watch even half of the action?
The answer is no—it’s possible to watch everything, if you have courage and self-belief and the proper Internet sherpa to guide you up the mountaintop of spectating glory. Fear not, for you are stronger than you know, and I am the guru you seek. To go straight to the minute-by-minute Saturday guide, scroll down. But first I’d like to present you with my bona fides.
The reason I included the pretentious byline “Paris” in this article, even though Paste Magazine rarely (never?) uses bylines of any kind, is to demonstrate my dedication to the summer Olympics. I love them, in a way I could never possibly love another human. I love them so much that I’m willing to sacrifice precious hours on the last day of my vacation in France to write an entire post about them. This is the kind of fanatic you’re dealing with. Sometimes I think that maybe my entire purpose in life was to write summer Olympic viewing guides. I was born for this, the same way Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born to make music and Donald John Trump was born to be an asshole.
Sure, I could be at the Louvre right now, spending hours contemplating the mysterious smile of the Mona Lisa. I could be gazing out at the city from the steps of the Sacre Coeur Cathredral, drinking in the beauty of one of our world’s most historical cities. But then again—fuck that. I mean, is France even going to win a gold medal? (Answer: Yeah, probably a bunch. Which is why I should be writing about them instead of touristing like a shitty touristy tourist.)
So here I am, sitting on our nice balcony overlooking the Rue Pecquay, disappointing my wife and my friends as our time dwindles. I can’t help it. I’m obsessed with the Olympics, even when they’re in a glorified polluted swamp of disease and corruption and petty or not-so-petty crime like Rio. This is a digression, but an important one—we should all understand that this shit will be u-g-l-y. Will some freakish sea creature mutated by radiation and sewage rise from the depths to swallow a sailing vessel whole during the men’s 49er FX? Very likely. Will Usain Bolt be kidnapped and held hostage in a favela in what will become the plot for the next City of God movie? Almost definitely. And will at least four coxswains be swallowed whole by dysfunctional toilets in the athlete’s village, never to be seen again? I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.
And I’m fine with all of that, because in order to be an Olympic guru like me, you first have to be a fanboy willing to overlook flaw after flaw after flaw. That’s me. I’m totally and slavishly devoted to the whole spectacle, from esoteric events like archery and rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming to the sexier, more glamorous sports like trampoline and taekwondo. And there’s nobody on this Earth more qualified to guide you along your viewing journey than me. You don’t want to miss anything, and neither do I, so for the next two weeks I invite you to take my virtual hand as we catch every major event.
Before we begin with the guide for Saturday, here are the basic rules:
1. The guide works best if you have one functioning computer with Internet that is capable of streaming NBC Live Extra, which shows every single event live (hat tip to you, NBC), and one cable television with NBC and its English-speaking Olympic affiliates (NBCSN, Bravo, CNBC, USA, MSNBC, and the Golf Channel). But even if you only have Internet, this guide will tell you what to watch and when to watch it—it’s just that you might have more overlap.
2. My goal is to see every event where a medal is at stake—regardless of sport, or which countries are competing—and every match in a team sport where an American squad is competing. As such, the guide will be American-centric, because hey, this is the last vestige of naked American patriotism that doesn’t make you want to curl up under a table and weep for the future. I intend to take full advantage.
3. I want to watch everything live. This will be easier with the Olympics in Rio—as opposed to far-flung hinterland villages like London—but I guarantee NBC is still going to pull its tape-delay bullshit at some point, and I won’t oblige that.
4. I am a giant nerd, so I have prepared a ridiculous spreadsheet with every single event, including the dates and times of all medal finals and the aforementioned American team matches. You should keep it handy over the next two weeks, and you can find it here.
Okay, that’s plenty of preamble from me. Let’s f’ing do this. Here is what you should be watching on Saturday, and keep an eye out for Sunday’s guide coming sometime Saturday afternoon/early evening.
Once again, NBC Live Extra is your streaming friend, and this spreadsheet is your digital itinerary. All times eastern.
7:30 is your wake-up call. (I mean that literally—post your phone number in the comments so I can call you. This is critical.) Do your coffee, your cereal, whatever the hell you need. You have 30 minutes to prepare. It’s game time, and you can’t afford to slip for a single instant, so shake off the hangover and get hyped. No excuses.
8:00 a.m. — Men’s Team Archery — Round of 16 — Computer
This might be my sneaky-favorite Olympic event, and even if it’s not quite at the top, it’s still an amazing way to kick off the Games. If you’ve never seen Olympic archery, I can’t begin to tell you how insanely fucking tense it is. These guys are so precise that one “bad” shot (ie, off by an inch) can ruin their entire Olympic dreams, and while South Korea is the favorite (though sadly missing one of my all-time favorites, blind archer and world record holder Im Dong Hyun), shit can always go haywire, like it did in 2012 when Italy came out of nowhere to win.
My other favorite thing about the archers is that they’re a group of total weirdos and eccentrics, even though they would be utterly terrifying and deadly in an apocalypse scenario. If one of these dudes was hunting you, and you were on a dead sprint 100 yards away, the only suspense would be whether the arrow took you directly in the pupil, or sort off to the side in the iris. When the end times come, I will immediately offer myself as a lowly steward to the nearest Olympic archer. I will be the Reek to his Ramsay Bolton, no questions asked.
8:30 a.m. — Cycling — Men’s Road Race — NBC
We’re starting our TV kick on the bikes, baby! Chris Froome, Tour de France winner, is the favorite here, but as my fellow cycling aficionados will tell you, crazy shit can happen within a single stage. Also, if you’ve ever had an annoying friend tell you that the Tour de France is actually fun to watch, this is a safe, easy way to check out some cycling without any real commitment. The Olympic road race is a gateway drug, like marijuana, or the first time you throw a plastic water bottle in an ordinary trash can. What a thrill!
This is a long race, so keep it on in the background and be ready to switch stations when necessary.
9:20 a.m. — Men’s Water Polo — U.S. vs. Croatia — NBC
These are the sons of bitches who beat us in the 2012 quarterfinals, and went on to win the gold. I haven’t forgotten, Croatia. This is our first chance to be super patriotic, and shout cool things like, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AMERICA, PLEASE LET ME HAVE ALL YOUR BEAUTIFUL BABIES!” (Seriously, though, water polo is incredible. I won’t be missing a single U.S. match, and I’m sure I’ll end up watching a replay of like, Montenegro vs. Serbia at 4 a.m. on a random Tuesday.) No need to change the channel here—NBC is wisely moving from the road race for a break.
9:30 a.m. — Shooting — Women’s 10m Air Rifle Final — Computer
This will be the first medal awarded at the Olympic games. Missing this would be like missing the birth of your first child, but worse. A woman from China named Yi Siling is favored, which is no surprise since they dominate sports like these. Sports Illustrated’s awesome prediction guide tells me that she is “a former dancer known as Shooting Beauty.” As an American partisan, it’s hard for me to root for China at anything, since they’re our biggest and best rivals, but it’s damn near impossible not to be intrigued by someone called “Shooting Beauty.” I hereby rescind my servitude to the Archer King and declare my fealty to Yi Siling, the one true Khaleesi.
10:00 a.m. — Tennis — First Round Matches — Bravo
After “Shooting Beauty” has won or lost and the U.S. decimates Croatia in the pool, entertain yourself with some early tennis action. Nothing major is at stake yet, but there’s a little morning window before the action gets crazy in the afternoon, so relax, have a second breakfast, and cycle between this and the cycling on TV. I’d encourage you to root for America, but they’re all giant lumbering goliaths who can’t move, and either Djokovic or Murray is surely going to win.
12:00 p.m. — Swimming — Qualifying Heats — NBC
It’s just a tease for the evening’s stacked finals lineup, but even a tease in Olympic swimming is pretty sweet. It’s also your first chance to see Katie Ledecky, in the 4×100 freestyle heats, as she attempts to win five golds. This event will probably be her hardest.
1:00 p.m. — Men’s Team Archery — Quarterfinals — Computer
Who knows, the U.S. might still be in this thing! Can I just say again how psyched I am for archery? There—I said it again.
1:30 p.m. — Gymnastics — Men’s Team Qualifying — Computer
This is the U.S. team qualifying session, and a mere appetizer for Monday’s team final (there is no doubt that they will qualify). No need to spend much time here. Just take a quick peak between archery matches as a short primer for the unbearable nerves you will feel on Monday, watching these dudes when it really counts.
2:30 p.m. — Shooting — Men’s 10m Air Pistol Final — Computer
The favorite here is South Korean Jin Jong-Oh, or, as he’s known back home, “The Handsome Gunsman.” (May have made that one up…”Shooting Beauty” has me all frazzled.)
3:30 p.m. — Men’s Beach Volleyball — Gibb/Patterson vs. Qatar — NBC
Beach volleyball absolutely makes my top five Olympic sports. It’s got everything you need—skill, athleticism, tension, and good to very good American teams. One of the most disappointing parts of the 2012 men’s tournament is that the Americans didn’t medal, but Jake Gibb is back with a new partner to try to avenge a quarterfinal loss. This should be a relatively easy ice-breaker, but winning a medal will still be super, super hard.
3:39 p.m. — Archery — Men’s Team Finals — Computer
4:00 p.m. — Women’s Field Hockey — U.S. vs. Argentina — USA
Look, under the rules I set, this has to be included. But even though I’m a self-professed Olympics fanboy, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about enjoying field hockey. It’s a miserable spectator sport, and despite giving it several chances, I’ve never derived any pleasure from watching. I don’t understand why it’s even in the Olympics. Do we put basketball on ice? No, and we should never have put hockey on grass. My advice to you is to flip here during halftime of the next event, watch two minutes, check it off your list, and never speak of this moment again.
4:00 p.m. — Women’s Soccer — U.S. vs. France — NBC Sports Network
NOW YOU’RE TALKING MY LANGUAGE. This is an enormous match between two of the heavy favorites to win the entire event. Both are 1-0 (soccer stages some matches before the opening ceremony for scheduling purposes), and both will undoubtedly advance to the elimination stages. But this will give us a real taste of what to expect from Team USA, winners of four out of the five women’s soccer tournaments since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in ‘96. I thought I loved women’s soccer before the London Games, but then I watched Abby Wambach talk the referee into a undeserved free kick that resulted in the U.S. beating Canada in the semis, and my love jumped to a different level as Canadians worldwide spun into an angry tizzy on social media. Truly one of the funniest/best Olympic memories ever.
4:00 p.m. — Women’s Volleyball — U.S. vs. Puerto Rico — Computer
I’m a huge advocate of Olympic volleyball, and while it doesn’t quite have the whacked-out novelty appeal of its beach cousin, and the matches are a little longer, I still think it’s one of the more surprisingly fun sports to watch. The women took silver in 2012, losing to Brazil, and it’s obviously going to be tough to beat the home team this time, but they did win the world championship in 2014. This is one of many Olympic sports, by the way, in which the American women are way better than the American men.
4:00 p.m. — Judo — Women’s 48kg Finals — Computer
Sure, jump here real quick. A medal is at stake, and these women are the smallest in the field, so marvel at how they could flip you over just by looking at you.
4:15 p.m. — Fencing — Women’s Epee Finals — Computer
The four o’clock hour is so busy, but even though a lot of people hate on fencing—they’re so good that it’s hard to see what’s actually happening—I actually kinda dig it. You need to watch in small doses, but when you do, it’s possible to lose yourself in the drama of a close match. The bad news for the medalists is that Shooting Beauty and the Archer King are going to decimate the Sword People when Armageddon comes.
4:45 p.m. — Judo — Men’s 60kg Finals — Computer
Can we just remove all these weird and arbitrary martial arts disciplines and replace them with MMA? Is there a reason this hasn’t happened yet? And if we’re going to do have random specialties like judo and taekwondo, why not at least introduce jiu jitsu, which is way more relevant today? I can’t defend judo. The only redeeming feature is that it’s quick, so you can check this out when the soccer match hits halftime.
6:00 p.m. — Men’s Basketball — U.S. vs. China — NBCSN
As a former basketball writer and a lifelong, diehard fan, this next opinion might be viewed as heresy. I don’t care: Olympic basketball has been boring as hell since 1992. The Dream Team was a fantastic one-time statement to the rest of the world, but beyond that, the only time the sport has ever been interesting was that time in 2004 when the U.S. forgot to prepare and got beat by Argentina. Now that we’re dominant again, what’s the point? If we’re clamoring for gold medals, why not just add American football, or diabetes? They need to give this sport back to the amateurs, because watching the best players in the world crush the competition is just pointless. I want the old days back, when the finals were a holy war between U.S. college kids and pros from the Soviet Union, complete with crooked referees and the possibility of fist fights.
6:00 p.m. — Women’s Rugby — U.S. vs. Colombia — CNBC
Hell yeah! Watch this instead. Rugby Sevens is a new sport, and I have no idea what to expect. I don’t know the rules (it’s sort of like football, right?), I don’t know if we’re any good, and I don’t know who’s favored. And that’s just the way I like it—rugby, you have every chance to win me over.
6:00 p.m. — Women’s Weightlifting — 48kg Final — Computer
These women weigh less than 105 pounds, and yes, they can absolutely lift more weight than you. The winner in this class in 2012 hoisted 264 pounds in the clean-and-jerk, which is fucking insane. She could actually lift me above her head, if she wanted (I’m assuming she doesn’t?). It’s not the world’s greatest spectator sport, but there’s nothing else occupying your computer time now, so give it a look.
9:03 p.m. — Swimming — Men’s 400 IM Final — NBC
I’ve come to my senses. You know how I said archery might be my favorite Olympic sport? That was stupid and wrong. It’s swimming. There is nothing better than the pool. It is the absolute highlight of every Olympics, and for me, the best U.S. Olympic moment of all-time came in the water (fast-forward to four minutes if you don’t want to watch the whole race):
Chase Kalisz is the American to watch here, but the Japanese will probably dominate.
9:30 p.m. — Swimming — Men’s 400 Freestyle Final — NBC
Sun Yang, the defending champ from London, is the dude to beat.
9:49 p.m. — Swimming — Women’s 400 IM Final — NBC
Maya DiRado: Never heard of her, but she’s American and could win! She’ll have to be great in all four strokes to pull it off, though—”normal,” “dog paddle,” “back float,” and “yell for the lifeguard.”
10:24 p.m. — Swimming — Women’s 400 × 100 Free Final — NBC
LEDECKY BABY! The good news is that she’s awesome. The bad news is that Australia is also insanely good, and they have three of the four fastest swimmers in the pool for this relay. Beating them is going to be super hard, and Australians are super gloaty when they beat Americans in this event. Remember when I talked about the best U.S. Olympic moment above? This was one of the worst. I hate Australian swimming. When they have their national championships, I tune in to root for the sharks.
11:00 p.m. — Women’s Beach Volleyball — Ross/Walsh-Jennings vs. Australia — NBC
A perfect way to end the night. Walsh is the defending gold medalist from 2012, and now that her partner Misty-May Treanor is retired, she’s adding April Ross, who took silver in those Games. This is something like a dream team, but they’ll still have to beat the Brazilians on their home…sand…in order to win gold. The women’s tournament will be one of the best parts of these two weeks, assuming they can dodge the hypodermic needles filled with arsenic and Zika that wash up on the beach with every high tide.
Okay, time to drink Nyquil and hit the sack. Look out for the Sunday guide coming tomorrow night, and pat yourself on the back for putting in a solid day’s work. We’re just getting started, and the Archer Kings and Shooting Beauties of day two await. Check back Saturday night for your Sunday guide.