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Nationalism Bests Records Among Olympic Viewers



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    BEIJING - AUGUST 17: Michael Phelps of the United States smiles with the American flag as he wears his eighth gold medal after the Men's 4x100 Medley Relay at the National Aquatics Centre during Day 9 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 17, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

    There will be 906 medals at stake for 10,500 athletes from 204 countries over 16 days in late July and early August -- but for now, with the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony still a few days away, new poll results have been released to give you your Olympic fix.

    According to a Marist Poll released Monday, the Olympics are all about nationalism as far as Americans are concerned.

    “When it comes to nationalism versus records, nationalism still wins,” said Dr. Keith Strudler, director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “But records are still important to many Olympic viewers.”

    Nationwide, half of the country is feeling a healthy sense of competition and pride. Fifty percent of adults say they prefer to watch Americans bring home the gold, while 43 percent think watching records being broken is more captivating.

    Locals can thank Michael Phelps for both. The Baltimore native is going into the Games with enough medals to warrant a sore neck -- 16 from the past two games, a record-smashing 14 of which are gold.

    According to the Marist Poll, Phelps is the runaway sensation of the Games, and why not? His eight gold medals in Beijing four years ago broke the record for most gold in a single games (previously set in Munich in 1972 by Mark Spitz), and he is currently sitting just two medals behind Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most overall.

    A whopping half of Americans agree that Phelps is the most interesting athlete overall, but what about breaking it down by gender?

    Seventeen percent think LeBron James, who is hot off his first NBA championship, will be the most prominent male athlete. Trailing is something Usain Bolt rarely does, but he ranks behind LeBron in this poll. The Jamaican won three gold medals and set three world records in under a combined 45 seconds four years ago.

    Interestingly enough, only 1percent said that South African double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius would receive the most attention.

    Among female athletes, Serena Williams faces little to no competition -- 43 percent think she will be the biggest star. The Washington Kastles star took the Olympic gold in 2000 and 2008 in doubles and has a career 88.8 win percentage.
    In a distant second place is U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo with a mere 11 percent.

    Event popularity was also measured, and again Michael Phelps comes into play. Taking into account both men and women, 30 percent of viewers are most looking forward to gymnastics, followed by 23 percent looking forward to the duo of Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the pool.

    Among just women, gymnastics is significantly more popular -- a full 44 percent of women are most looking forward to it. Not so much among men -- there is little consensus. Twenty-eight percent are most looking forward to track and field, and 24 percent are in favor of swimming.

    The Olympics always brings about big-time, national rivalries and this year is no different. With so many people looking forward to gymnastics 41 percent said that China is America’s biggest rival. In a distant second place is Russia, capturing just 15 percent, followed by Canada, Britain and Australia.

    Americans might agree that China is the biggest competition, but they can’t agree on how they’ll be watching the competition unfold.

    For the first time ever Americans will be able to get their Team USA fix anywhere, anytime with online streaming. How it will be used remains up for debate.

    Sixty-one percent of viewers plan on staying “old school” and using just a TV. But limit that to those over the age of 60 and the number jumps to 79 percent. On the flip side, limit it to those under 30 and 27 percent plan to at least view most of their content online.

    Across all age groups however just 3 percent plan to watch exclusively online, with an additional 5 percent saying they will follow “mostly online.”

    You can view the entire poll here.