Two major gold medal events will dominate the Olympics Thursday – the U.S. women soccer team's highly-anticipated rematch with Japan and electrifying Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt's attempt to make history in his second final of the 2012 Games.
The USA vs. Japan soccer match will be played at Wembley Stadium in front of a crowd of at least 83,000 people, following a last-minute buying spree for tickets, according to Reuters. That number smashes the women's Olympic attendance record, which was previously set in 1996 when 76,489 fans watched the final between the U.S. and China in Athens.
The U.S. team is seeking its third successive gold but will need to come out hard against Japan, who defeated the Americans in the final of the women's World Cup in Frankfurt in July 2011. Because of that battle, both teams have something to prove in London: For Japan, a gold medal placing means their 2011 victory was no fluke. For Team USA, it's a chance to redeem themselves following the punishing World Cup encounter.
"I've been hoping for this final from the moment I stepped off the podium in Germany," says U.S. forward Abby Wambach.
The U.S.'s game with Japan begins at 2:45 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports.
Meanwhile, Bolt returns for what could be a history-making second track final in the 200m Thursday, four days after he blitzed the field to claim victory in the 100m. Bolt won both races in Beijing in 2008 and is aiming to repeat the sweep in 2012 – which would make him the first athlete to ever accomplish that in consecutive Olympic games.
He will face intense competition from his countryman and training partner Yohan Blake, who beat the gold medalist at both 200m and 100m at the Jamaican trials in June. "He is the best, hands down," Bolt has said of greatest rival and teammate. "He has shown he can do great things."
As for Blake, he avoids engaging in the Bolt circus. "I'm not really focusing on beating him," Blake told reporters when asked if he could take Bolt over the longer distance. "I'm concentrating on running my race."
If Bolt claims victory, he will surpass American Carl Lewis, who won back-to-back golds in the 100m at the 1984 and 1988 games and in the 200m achieved gold in 1984 in Los Angeles and silver in Seoul in 1988.
The men's 200m final starts at 3:55 p.m. ET and will be livestreamed on NBCOlympics.com and broadcast on NBC from 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Other events Thursday include:
- The U.S. women's water polo team will meet Spain in the final broadcast live on NBC at 3 p.m. ET/PT. Though the American women have medaled at every Olympics since the game debuted in 2000, they have never managed to attain the elusive gold. The team won silver in Sydney, bronze in 2004 in Athens and then silver again in Beijing in 2008.
- Other Americans in track and field events include: Will Claye and Christian Taylor leaping for gold in the men's triple jump final (2:20 p.m. ET); Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds in the men's 800m final (3:00 p.m. ET); Alysia Johnson Montano, Geena Gall and Alice Schmidt in the women's 800m semifinals (2:30 p.m. ET); and Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee culminate their assault on the men's decathlon with the 1,500m (4:20 p.m. ET).
- The volleyball focus moves indoor following the all-American beach final Wednesday, which saw Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings claim a third successive gold over teammates April Ross and Jennifer Kessy. In the first women's semifinal, the U.S. will battle South Korea before Brazil takes on Japan to see which two teams move on to Saturday's final. Play begins at 10 a.m. ET.
- At the Aquatics Center, America’s high divers Katie Bell and Brittany Viola compete in the semifinals of the 10m platform at 5 a.m. ET, followed by the finals which splash in at 2 p.m. ET.
For a full local listing of events being shown all day on NBC, the NBC Sports Network, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, the NBC Basketball Channel and Telemundo, please see NBCOlympics.com, where you can also find listings for all livestreamed events.