The Five Files: A Feast of Summer Sport

This week the five files makes it easy for you to plan your summer sporting entertainment by giving you all the dates that matter for summer sporting action.

5. Regular season baseball
Baseball is an acquired taste, and as a long-term fan of cricket, I find that it still tastes of poo. That being said, I can appreciate how big a part of the American psyche baseball is, evidently more so up here in the Northeast. The Red Sox have started the season in mixed fashion. At the time of writing they had lost five games in a row, but still led the American League East narrowly over the New York Yankees.

Dates: The Red Sox play 25 times in June, 28 times in July and 28 times in August, so there is no excuse to not see a few games, either on TV, or at Fenway if you happen to be in town.

4. Grand slam tennis
Tennis is boring and you get a sore neck watching it. So, it had better be of the highest quality if you are going to tune in. Fortunately, summer brings three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. Straddling May and June is the French Open at Roland Garros, Paris. Juan Carlos Ferrero and Justine Henin-Hardenne will attempt to defend their titles on the hot red clay courts. Spanning June and July is Wimbledon at Wimbledon, London.

Last year’s hero Roger Federer will defend his title, while Serena Williams will be aiming for a three-peat. Late August sees the US Open come to Flushing Meadows, New York. Local hero Andy Roddick will vie for his second Grand Slam, while Belgian Henin-Hardenne will look to extend her excellent 2003 form.
Dates: French Open from 24 May to 6 June, Wimbledon from 21 June to 7 July, US Open from 30 August to 12 September.

3. The world’s best cycling
Let’s face it. For 11 months of the year, most people just watch cycling to see riders fall off bikes and scrape themselves in comical manners. However, the Tour de France is something special – one month of grueling riding through France, much of it in various alpine regions. The race starts in Liege, completes a wobbly counterclockwise circle of France (with a flight between Quimper and Limoges), before the final run into the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The riders will have covered 3395km (around 2000mi) in 20 days of racing. Attention will focus on whether U.S. hero Lance Armstrong can become the first rider to ever win the tour six times. Currently five men have won the race five times each (Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, and Armstrong). Having overcome testicular cancer and won five Tours already, Armstrong could probably take it easy and milk sponsorship annuities forever. However, the sixth win would truly take him into the stratosphere of American athletes, past or present.
Dates: From 3 July to 25 July.

2. Soccer in Europe
Soccer is more important to Europe than just a way to fill up unutilized jail capacity with hooligans. The European Soccer Cup will attract a combined television audience well into the billions and is the culmination of several years (yes, years) of preliminary tournaments. The real joy of this tournament is the raw national pride of the games, where players from disparate leagues in Europe and beyond return to their home colors to do battle for soccer’s second-biggest prize. Despite their shocking form in the last World Cup (eliminated in group phase without scoring a goal), Frace is listed as favorites with most bookies. Italy, Spain and hosts Portugal follow in favoritism at this stage. Germany at the 17-1 range and Croatia at the 50-1 range are the best roughies, if betting takes your fancy.
Dates: 24 preliminary games between 12 June and 23 June, followed by the knock-out phase from 24 June to 4 July.

1. The Olympics
Four years ago, I spent three weeks off university to watch the Olympics unfold in my home town, and my addiction (which started with the LA games in 1984) was complete. The Summer Olympics represent all that is good about sport: national competition, lengthy build-up, 24-7 coverage (literally), loads of statistics and arguments, and plenty of variety.

Athens, the home of the ancient Olympics, Greek civilization and pollution will host thousands of athletes across 28 sports. Whether you like team sports (basketball, baseball etc), individual sports (athletics, aquatics, cycling etc) or old-fashioned chicanery (wrestling, equestrian etc), there will be something for everyone. Friday 13 August seems like a good day to end your summer internship, as you’ll catch the Opening Ceremony, and set yourself up for two weeks of bliss before school resumes.

Dates: Certain preliminaries on 11 August and 12 August, with official proceedings from 13 August to 29 August.