Things to watch: Saturday, Day 1

Updated: August 14, 2004, 7:39 PM ET
By Steve Woodward | Special to

In the land where athletes first became known as Olympians (776 B.C.) and where the modern Games were born (1896), the 2004 Summer Olympics finally begin after seven years of procrastination followed by a flurry of construction and promise-keeping, and global criticism followed by large-scale reassessment and, perhaps, relief.

A look at what to watch on the first full day of competition: (*NOTE: Event times below may vary from TV times. Many events will be shown on air in tape delay.)

What Why

Under the intensity of Athens' morning sun, a heated swimming competition begins with Michael Phelps' first step toward potential Olympic stardom in the prelims of the 400-meter individual medley. This is the event in which the 19-year-old established a world record last month during the U.S. trials in Long Beach, Calif. The finals are Saturday night when sunlight and temperatures subside and the roofless venue becomes an ideal place to be.

Also, American swimming legend Jenny Thompson takes a shot at her ninth career Olympic gold in the women's 4x100 freestyle relay.

When/Where: 400 IM heats begin at 3 a.m. ET, final at noon ET; women's 4x100 free relay heats at 5:42 a.m. ET, final at 1:28 p.m. ET; Olympic Aquatic Centre.

Women's soccer
The heralded "1991ers" -- Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and the class that jump-started the USA's rise as a global power in women's soccer -- continue their quest for a second gold medal. The U.S. women won the inaugural soccer title in Atlanta eight years ago, but relinquished gold in Sydney to Norway. Brazil will be a tougher opponent than Greece, defeated 3-0 by the Americans in Wednesday's opener.

When/Where: 11 a.m. ET, Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Thessaloniki.

Women's basketball
Van Chancellor, the U.S. women's hoops coach, insists he's nervous about his team's readiness even though it went 16-0 in pre-Olympics tune-up games this year, including three wins just prior to the team's arrival in Athens. "We're five to seven days away from being gold-medal ready," Chancellor said Thursday. Team USA opens against New Zealand in one of six games.

When/Where: 7:30 a.m. ET, Helliniko Arena.

Men's cycling
The men's cycling road race lacks the marquee lure of Lance Armstrong, who decided not to compete, but it will lack nothing aesthetically as it winds through the streets of Athens past ancient ruins and famous landmarks.

When/Where: The race will begin at 5:45 a.m. ET and is scheduled to run through 11:40 a.m. Medal ceremony is slated for 11:55 p.m. ET; Athens City Centre Cycling