London 2012: The Incredibles

The biggest sporting event in the world kicks off in London next month. As 204 nations prepare to field their teams, Vision picks out the Olympians who are set to shine at the 2012 Games

It’s not called the Greatest Show on Earth for nothing and this summer’s Olympic Games has all the ingredients for a magical festival of sport. The iconic city of London hosts the XXX Olympiad, which gets under way on 27 July and features competitors from 204 countries across 26 sports.

In a refreshing antidote to the financially driven worlds of, for example, football, it will provide an arena where the honour and prestige of representing your country supercedes everything.

From the duels in track and field to the battles on the badminton and basketball courts, to the less publicised but equally gripping face-offs in so-called minority sports such as archery, shooting, synchronised swimming and taekwondo, this summer will have something for everyone. The most incredible stories will emerge as the 17 days unfold. London 2012 will make heroes of unknowns, see world records smashed and provide sports fans with all the gripping excitement and euphoria of seeing supremely gifted champions compete against one another in feats of staggering prowess. Such is the power of the Olympics that it taps into every emotion.

For the UAE, it promises to be a defining Games as they plan to field the biggest team in their history. There is potential to add to Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum’s heroic shooting double trap gold in Athens in 2004. I will, of course, be vociferously cheering my countrymen and women on.

The roll call of sporting superstars at these Games promises to make London 2012 one of the great Olympics, full of thrilling spectacle and high drama. Teams fielded by the 204 countries all contain a wealth of talent, but there is a golden circle of athletes who will be taking the action to another level and others whom every sports fan should be watching for a breakthrough performance. Here is our pick of the ones to watch…

Usain Bolt, Sprinter, Jamaica
The Jamaican phenomenon is a five-time world champion and three-time Olympic gold medallist. Currently the world record holder in the 100m and 200m, the ice-cool sprinter says he wants to run the former in a spectacular 9.4 seconds in London. Bolt says if he dominates this Games like he did in Beijing – where he won three golds – he will be a “living legend”. It’s hard to disagree.

Michael Phelps, Swimmer, US
With Australian Ian Thorpe failing to qualify for London 2012, Phelps will be the headliner in the pool. It will be an emotional fourth and final Games for the American, who can add to his astonishing 16 Olympic medals, a record 14 of which are gold. Phelps has remained coy over how many events he will race in but a repeat of the incredible eight golds in Beijing is unlikely. However, taking his medal haul past the all-time record of 18 looks a formality.

Roger Federer, Tennis player, Switzerland
The greatest tennis player ever to pick up a racket has prioritised London 2012 as he goes in search of his first singles gold. Currently enjoying a resurgence in form as he approaches the twilight of his career, the record 16-time slam winner is an all-time legend. Anyone who appreciates sporting excellence would love to see him climax his stellar career with a singles gold.

Qiu Bo, Diver, China
The one gap in the 19-year-old’s growing CV is Olympic success. The Chinese diving sensation recently graced Dubai, where he pipped Britain’s Tom Daley to the first prize in the World Series. Over the competition he racked up countless perfect 10 scores, while in the 2011 World Championships he won two golds in the platform events. Daley vs Bo could be a classic and Bo has the talent to win the day.

Jordyn Wieber, Gymnast, US
The 17-year-old world champion gymnast is one of the iconic members of the American squad in her first Olympics. She will face stiff competition from Aliya Mustafina, the Russian former world champion, but her demanding routines have the potential to earn gold.

Mo Farah, Distance runner, UK
The endearing Farah is going for gold in the 10,000m and 5,000m, with hopes high he can complete a monumental double. The 29-year-old’s key rival is Kenyan-American Bernard Lagat, who is vastly experienced – but Farah will have a nation behind him. It will be a nail-biter.

Anna Meares, Cyclist, Australia
Sprint cyclist Meares will go head to head with bitter rival, the popular Brit Victoria Pendleton – they have a feud that goes back years. Meares is three years younger and beat Pendleton in the recent Track World Cup, a dress rehearsal for the summer. One to watch..

Lin Dan, Badminton player, China
‘Super Dan’ to his fans, the reigning Olympic champion is widely considered the best badminton player of all time. He has won all there is to win in the sport and is a hero in China. A rematch with the man he beat in Beijing, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, looks on the cards.

Omar Abdulrahman, Footballer, UAE
The Al Ain player (pictured here on the right) has the potential to be the best Emirati footballer of all time, and that’s not unjustified hype. The diminutive midfielder almost single-handedly kept this season’s Pro League champions-elect in the league last season before injury ruined his start to the following campaign. But once fit he quickly reminded everyone of his talent by inspiring the UAE under-23 team to their first-ever Olympics. He scored the winner against Australia, then, thanks to his slick assist, helped secure a draw against Uzbekistan. London looks the perfect platform for this national hero in the making.