London 2012: Olympics: Ready... set... watch!

The action begins for real today and some of the Games' biggest names could claim their first golds. You can't see it all, but definitely try to catch these, writes Simon Usborne

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The Independent Online

Michael Phelps

If the man with more gold than an oligarch's wife can get his flippers on three more medals, he will become the most successful Olympian ever. The US swimmer has 16 medals – 14 gold – but two fewer than Soviet gymnast, Larisa Latynina. His bid begins today in the 400m individual medley, where he will face arch-rival and friend Ryan Lochte, the glamour boy of the US team.

7.30pm, BBC1

Hiromi Miyake

She's only 4ft 9in tall but this Japanese weightlifter will try to snatch, clean and jerk her way to new heights in the quest to find the world's smallest strongwoman. Miyake and her rivals in today's group stages weigh 48kg or less, but the world record for the division stands at an elbow-snapping 217kg. Miyake's father and uncle won

four Olympic weightlifting medals between them – so no pressure there, then.

3.25pm, BBC Olympics 12

Misty May-Treanor

Beach volleyball, the sport with perhaps the greatest number of fans who are male and not generally interested in volleyball, gets under way at Horse Guards Parade. May-Treanor, 34, a veteran US bikini-wearer and sporting celebrity, will reunite with Kerri Smith, with whom she won gold in Athens and Beijing. The pair face a stern challenge from China's Zhang Xi and Xue Che.

8.55am, BBC Olympics 12

Mark Cavendish

Just six days after his historic Tour de France win, Bradley Wiggins will swap yellow for red, white and blue to help launch Mark "Manx Missile" Cavendish on The Mall to win the cycle road race, and Team GB's first gold medal of the Games. For 156 miles, including nine laps of Box Hill in Surrey, a five-man team will conserve Cav's energy for a sprint finish. If he can get to the final stretch outside Buckingham Palace at the front of the pack, nothing will stop him.

10am, BBC1


Marta Vieira da Silva, to give her full name, is the five-times Fifa World Player of the Year, South American champion and multiple-league and cup winner in three countries. She is widely considered to be the greatest-ever women's footballer, but Olympic gold has so far eluded her. Da Silva, 26, was the star of Brazilian sides that lost to their fierce rivals, the USA, in the 2004 and 2008 finals. The teams are likely to square up again in the semis in London. Marta, famed for her speed and skill, should make easier work of New Zealand today.

2.20pm, BBC Olympics 8