London 2012: Day-by-day guide to the highlights

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter
Olympic Stadium

What to watch? When to watch it? Who are the stars? Where will the drama come?

This page guides you through the events expected to provide highlights of the London Olympics, both for Team GB and the big international names.

There are of course no guarantees - great stories can and will develop elsewhere, while some of the events below may not live up to the billing - and this is not comprehensive, but should give you an idea of where to find headline-making Olympic action over the coming weeks.

Remember: BBC Sport has live coverage of every sport, at every venue, each day of the Games with up to 24 simultaneous streams. explains how to watch the Olympics on our various platforms.

Wed 25 July - Day minus-two

The Games begin before the beginning. Two days ahead of the opening ceremony, the Olympic football competition begins early (as it has done at every Olympics since Sydney 2000).

Great Britain's women have the honour of being the first team in action at their home Games, up against New Zealand in a 16:00 BST kick-off at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium (live on BBC One). Other fixtures are in Coventry and Glasgow.

Thu 26 July - Day minus-one

The football competition continues with the first set of men's group games in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester (Old Trafford), Coventry and Cardiff.

BBC Two follows the opening Games from 14:30 BST before BBC One picks up the baton as Team GB's men face Senegal - coverage from Old Trafford begins at 19:00.

Fri 27 July - Day zero

This is the day the Games officially begin - but you won't get to see any sport.

The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin at 21:00 BST inside the Olympic Stadium. Join BBC One for the build-up from 19:00 BST, right through to the lighting of the cauldron and beyond.

The Olympic flame winds its way through London in the lead-up to the ceremony. You can line the route for free if you want to be a part of the culmination of its journey, or watch the live stream online.

Archery is the only sport taking place, but these are preliminary rounds which take place behind closed doors at Lord's Cricket Ground.

Sat 28 July - Day one

Mark Cavendish's Tour de France was quiet by his standards, yet still sprinkled with impressive victories, including the final stage climax along the Champs Elysees. His stage 18 win was "a prelude to what might happen at the Olympics," according to BBC Sport's Chris Boardman.

Will he win Britain's first gold medal in the men's cycling road race? Find out with Jake Humphrey from 14:00 BST on BBC One with full race coverage throughout the day.

The first gold of the Games is expected to come at the shooting range at the Royal Artillery Barracks, while Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are the first GB rowers onto the water at Eton Dorney that morning in the women's pair.

At the Aquatics Centre, Hannah Miley goes in the women's 400m individual medley with American duo Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte both in action. Swimming finals begin on BBC One at 19:30.

The archery men's team event might see a British medal in the early evening.

GB teams in action: Basketball women v Australia 22:15, football women v Cameroon 17:15, handball women v Montenegro 19:30, volleyball women v Russia 14:45.

Sun 29 July - Day two

Will Rebecca Adlington be lining up a gold medal in the pool as Wembley hosts its first 2012 Olympic football match?

If she makes it through the morning heats, Adlington will defend her 400m freestyle Olympic title at 20:15 BST on BBC One. This is expected to be the tougher of her two Olympic gold medals to defend.

Lizzie Armitstead and defending Olympic champion Nicole Cooke will earlier have lined up for Team GB in the women's cycling road race. The question is, which of those two - team-mates but fierce rivals - will ride for the gold medal? Only one can win and we will stream the whole race live.

This is the day the new Wembley Stadium makes its Olympic football debut as Great Britain's men take on the United Arab Emirates, live on BBC Three from 19:45.

Ben Ainslie begins the defence of his Olympic Finn sailing title, and also his quest for a fourth Olympic gold medal, at around midday.

GB teams in action: Basketball men v Russia 20:30, football men v UAE 19:45, handball men v France 19:30, hockey women v Japan 19:00, volleyball men v Bulgaria 09:30, water polo men v Romania 18:20.

Mon 30 July - Day three

Tom Daley dives for a medal with partner Pete Waterfield in the men's 10m platform synchro event in the Aquatics Centre, starting at 15:00 BST on BBC One.

Kath Grainger, the rower who has won three consecutive Olympic silver medals, begins what looks to be a strong bid for gold at last alongside Anna Watkins at Eton Dorney. Their double sculls heats are from 10:20.

Zara Phillips and her GB eventing team-mates will be in action during the sport's dramatic cross-country stage in Greenwich Park throughout Monday afternoon, then Britain's men's gymnasts will go for a team medal assuming they make the final at the North Greenwich Arena (O2 Arena to most people) from 16:30.

In the pool, Michael Phelps has dropped out of the men's 200m freestyle so Ryan Lochte will look for the win, while Gemma Spofforth and Liam Tancock will hope to have made backstroke finals for Team GB. Swimming coverage begins at 19:00.

Britain's men's hockey team faces Argentina at 19:00 at the Riverbank Arena, which you can follow on BBC Three alongside basketball and volleyball.

GB teams in action: Basketball women v Canada 20:30, handball women v Russia 14:30, hockey men v Argentina 19:00, volleyball women v Algeria 22:00, water polo women v Russia 18:20.

Tue 31 July - Day four

Forty years have passed since GB last won team eventing gold, but this is their strongest team in generations. The team final begins at 10:30 BST on BBC One with the individual final, where British hopes are also high, to follow.

At Lee Valley's canoe slalom course, Britain's David Florence - arguably the team's biggest medal hope, having won silver in Beijing four years ago - competes in the men's C1 (single-person canoe) event from 15:35. Following that, the British women's gymnastics team are in action (unless they fail to qualify for the final, which is unlikely).

At Wembley Stadium, there is the enticing prospect of GB's women facing Brazil in their Olympic football group game.

Running throughout the day is the men's -81kg judo event. Euan Burton - twice a world bronze medallist - fights in that category and is the leading British contender in the sport.

And keep an eye on fencing, in the same venue (the Excel), where Richard Kruse could get the chance to fight for a men's individual foil medal. The medal matches begin at 19:10.

GB teams in action: Basketball men v Brazil 16:45, football women v Brazil 19:45, handball men v Sweden 14:30, hockey women v South Korea 16:00, volleyball men v Australia 20:00, water polo men v Serbia 18:20.

Wed 1 August - Day five

Can rower Greg Searle win Olympic gold for Britain after 10 years in retirement? It will be tough - the men's eight, in which he races, took two silver medals and a bronze in this year's three World Cup races. Germany have won the last three world titles.

Searle will race in the final at 12:30 BST on BBC One, 20 years after his first Olympic gold medal in Barcelona.

Road cycling's men's and women's time trials take place with Bradley Wiggins and Emma Pooley the British gold-medal contenders. The women go at 12:30, the men at 14:15.

Dan Purvis will carry British hopes in the men's all-around gymnastics final from 16:30, then Ellen Gandy flies the flag for Team GB's swimmers inside the Aquatics Centre. She goes in the women's 200m butterfly as the world silver medallist. Finals begin at 19:30 on BBC One.

GB teams in action: Basketball women v Russia 16:45, football men v Uruguay 19:45, handball women v Brazil 16:15, hockey men v South Africa 16:00, volleyball women v Italy 16:45, water polo women v Australia 19:40.

Thu 2 August - Day six

Medals for Great Britain could come in a wide variety of sports on day six.

At the top of that list comes track cycling. The velodrome's first day of action sees Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish riding for team sprint gold, almost certainly against Australia, while Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy team goes up against formidable French and German opposition in the men's equivalent. Finals begin at 16:00 BST on BBC One.

The lightweight men's four and women's eight rowing finals are held at Eton Dorney from midday on the same channel, while the men's double trap shooting final takes place over at the Woolwich Artillery Barracks from 15:00. GB's Peter Wilson and Richard Faulds are set to star.

At Lee Valley, the men's C2 and women's K1 canoe slalom finals both have strong British interest, with David Florence and Richard Hounslow becoming the first paddlers to compete in two separate events at the same Olympic Games.

Join Manish Bhasin on BBC Three from 14:00 for the climax to that, then expect a ferocious battle between the US and Russia - featuring names such as Jordyn Wieber and Aliya Mustafina - to be crowned women's all-around gymnastics champion after the canoeing concludes on the same channel.

In the pool, a Phelps/Lochte battle is anticipated in the men's 200m individual medley, while Fran Halsall is Britain's outstanding hope in the women's 100m freestyle.

GB teams in action: Basketball men v Spain 20:00, handball men v Argentina 16:15, hockey women v Belgium 19:00, volleyball men v Italy 22:00, water polo men v United States 18:20.

Fri 3 August - Day seven

Athletics begins on one of the busiest days of the Games - 24 sports are in action, all streamed live on the BBC Sport website throughout.

Follow the fortunes of GB heptathlete Jessica Ennis on BBC One as she competes in her opening events, starting with the 100m hurdles at 10:05 BST and concluding for the day with her 200m heat at 20:45.

Badminton's mixed doubles gold-medal match begins at 13:30. GB's Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier are the world silver medallists but face an incredibly tough battle to reach the final once more on the Olympic stage.

At the velodrome, Geraint Thomas leads the British men's team pursuiters in another clash with the Australians. Should both make the final, it will be must-watch Olympic television from 18:00 on BBC Two. Victoria Pendleton follows in the women's keirin event.

Rowing's schedule sees Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins' event, the double sculls, reach its conclusion just after midday on BBC One, while Alan Campbell should also be in action in the single.

Swimming resumes with more finals from 19:30 on BBC One. Thursday evening's line-up is expected to include Lizzie Simmonds in the 200m backstroke and Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly, but the star attraction may well be Rebecca Adlington defending her 800m freestyle Olympic title. Adlington is more than a second quicker than anyone else in the world this year.

GB teams in action: Basketball women v France 20:00, football women's quarter-finals (if qualified), handball women v Angola 09:30, hockey men v Pakistan 16:00, volleyball women v Dominican Republic 16:45, water polo women v Italy 18:20.

Sat 4 August - Day eight

At each Olympics, there is a weekend where so much happens, it's hard to know where to turn. This is that weekend.

Among the priorities has to be the climax of the women's heptathlon, featuring Jessica Ennis. Her events last throughout the day but the decider will be the 800m on BBC One at 20:35 BST.

Following the heptathlon finale, Mo Farah goes for 10,000m gold and the women's 100m final ends the night.

Earlier that day, Usain Bolt - the man who stunned the world with three imperious world records at Beijing 2008 - can be spotted in the men's 100m heats from 12:30.

But you may want to be up well ahead of that, in time to see British world champion Helen Jenkins in the women's triathlon, which begins in Hyde Park at 09:00 live on BBC One.

Stick with BBC One for the final day of rowing later that morning, including the men's four final, where another Ashes scrap between GB and Australia can be expected, plus Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter in the lightweight men's double sculls.

The men's Olympic football has reached the quarter-final stage by this point and at Wimbledon we will bring you the women's singles tennis final from 14:00 on BBC One.

Later in the afternoon, Laura Trott takes to the boards in the first of her events as she bids for double track cycling gold, riding in the women's team pursuit.

Finally, this is the last night of swimming in the Aquatics Centre. Fran Halsall has the women's 50m freestyle final to go at before the sport bows out with the relays: women's and men's 4x100m medley. Head to BBC Three from 19:00 for live coverage.

GB teams in action: Basketball men v Australia 20:00, football men's quarter-finals (if qualified), handball men v Tunisia 09:30, hockey women v China 16:00, volleyball men v Poland 11:30, water polo men v Hungary 18:20.

Sun 5 August - Day nine

Despite his recent travails, this is the one many people around the globe will be waiting for: Usain Bolt in the men's 100m final.

Never mind the dip in form which saw training partner Yohan Blake beat him in the run-up to the Games, or the perilous possibility of his false-starting just as he did at last year's World Championships - there can be no question that Bolt running the 100m is the most eagerly awaited of Olympic events.

Bolt runs at 21:50 BST (assuming, of course, he makes the final) on BBC One, but there is much more to that night's athletics. Among other highlights, watch out for Christine Ohuruogu who will hope to reach the women's 400m final as she defends her title (21:10), and Yamile Aldama in the women's triple jump.

Plus, join BBC One at 11:00 for the women's marathon, featuring Britain's Paula Radcliffe.

Women's boxing, a sport making its Olympic debut, begins at 13:30 with three excellent British medal hopes in the shape of Nicola Adams, Natasha Jonas and Savannah Marshall.

From 14:00, follow the gymnastics apparatus finals on what could be a historic day for Louis Smith. He won bronze on the pommel horse in Beijing, but can he take the gold at London 2012? Dan Purvis could also feature - and win a medal - in the floor final.

Down in Weymouth this promises to be a huge day for British interests. Both the Finn and Star classes reach their medal races, meaning this is the day on which Ben Ainslie could wrap up a fourth Olympic sailing gold medal in the former.

Look for that to start at around 14:00 while in the Star, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson are defending their title from 09:00.

And at Wimbledon, can Andy Murray make amends for his agonising defeat by Roger Federer? The men's singles final begins at 14:00.

GB teams in action: Basketball women v Brazil 22:15, handball women v Croatia 16:15, hockey men v Australia 19:00, volleyball women v Japan 14:45, water polo women's quarter-finals (if qualified).

Mon 6 August - Day 10

Dai Greene, the 400m hurdles world champion, gets the chance to add Olympic gold to the collection at 20:45 BST on Monday live on BBC One. From 19:00 keep an eye on Holly Bleasdale in the women's pole vault too.

This could be the big chance for Beth Tweddle to finally win the gymnastics Olympic medal that has eluded her in more than a decade at the top of the sport. She will hope to have reached the uneven bars final, beginning at 14:50 on BBC One.

Laura Trott has made track cycling's omnium look deceptively easy over the past year - there are six disciplines involved and nowhere is this more true than in the eliminator (18:20), an exciting race which promises to be a highlight of the Games. Meanwhile, Jason Kenny takes on France's Gregory Bauge in the men's sprint.

At the sailing, Paul Goodison reaches the Laser class medal race from 14:00, and the equestrian team jumping final takes place from 14:00 on BBC Three.

In hockey, Britain's women face a strong Dutch side at 19:00 in their final group game as they look to progress to the semi-finals.

GB teams in action: Basketball men v China 16:45, football women's semi-finals (if qualified), handball men v Iceland 16:15, hockey women v Netherlands 19:00, volleyball men v Argentina 16:45, water polo men v Montenegro 18:20.

Tue 7 August - Day 11

Three big finals with outstanding British hopes bring track cycling to a conclusion inside the Olympic Velodrome.

Sir Chris Hoy in the keirin, Laura Trott in the omnium and Victoria Pendleton in the sprint are the trio who hold realistic hopes of gold-medal success, from 16:00 BST on BBC One.

Another threesome in the medal hunt for Britain can be found in Greenwich Park. British dressage has come on leaps and bounds in a very short space of time - Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin go for gold in the team event from 10:00.

Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw reach their medal races - possibly the last-ever windsurfing races at an Olympics, with the sport set to be replaced by kiteboarding for Rio 2016 - from 13:00 on BBC Three.

But Tuesday's number one highlight for Team GB could come in Hyde Park, where triathlon's wonder brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee finally take part in the race they have been told they will win for years. It's live on BBC One from 11:30.

Elsewhere, look out for Beth Tweddle who will hope to make gymnastics' floor final (16:20) while Robbie Grabarz heads for the high jump and both Tiffany Porter and Jessica Ennis go in 100m hurdles at the athletics.

GB teams in action: Basketball women's quarter-finals (if qualified), football men's semi-finals (if qualified), handball women's quarter-finals (if qualified), hockey men v Spain 19:00, volleyball women's quarter-finals (if qualified), water polo women's semi-finals (if qualified).

Wed 8 August - Day 12

What a four years Tim Brabants has had.

Since winning canoe sprint gold in Beijing, Brabants has gone back to his medical career for two years, returned to canoeing, come through a shoulder injury that nearly took him out of the sport, fought off young rival Paul Wycherley for the one place in the team, and now he lines up to defend his Olympic K1 1000m title at Eton Dorney.

That kicks off Wednesday's action from 09:30 on BBC One, shortly followed by Mo Farah in the men's 5,000m heats inside the Olympic Stadium. Yes, heats. You didn't think he just ran it once, did you? Also high up the athletics billing is Perri Shakes-Drayton in the 400m hurdles.

Off the Weymouth coast Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes will go in sailing's 49er medal race, and in Greenwich Park the individual jumping final ought to include Nick Skelton at his sixth Olympics.

Meanwhile, women's beach volleyball reaches a climax in the evening at Horse Guards Parade. You can find the medal matches on BBC Three, naturally, from 19:00.

GB teams in action (if qualified): Basketball men's quarter-finals, handball men's quarter-finals, hockey women's semi-finals, volleyball men's quarter-finals, water polo men's quarter-finals.

Thu 9 August - Day 13

Thursday promises great action across a broad range of events, starting in Hyde Park's Serpentine lake at midday when Keri-Anne Payne takes on the marathon swim.

The medal race for Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in sailing's 470 class begins at 13:00, followed by the first-ever Olympic women's boxing finals on BBC One from 16:30.

At 19:45 the women's football final takes place on BBC Three, while BBC One sticks with athletics. Watch the decathlon to see if new world record-holder Ashton Eaton of the US can convert his form into gold, while Usain Bolt runs in the 200m and GB's Phillips Idowu - at his fourth Olympic Games - goes for the triple jump title.

GB teams in action (if qualified): Basketball women's semi-finals, football women's medal matches, handball women's semi-finals, hockey men's semi-finals, volleyball women's semi-finals, water polo women's medal matches.

Fri 10 August - Day 14

Is this redemption day for Shanaze Reade, four years after her Beijing disaster?

Reade crashed out of the 2008 Olympic BMX final, which she started as the hot favourite. A world champion since, now she takes to her home course on the Olympic Park looking to make up for that lost time. The action begins on BBC One at 15:00 BST.

Reade is not the only one with a point to prove. Lutalo Muhammad, who came through a weeks-long, much-publicised selection dispute at the expense of Aaron Cook, fights in the men's -80kg Olympic taekwondo category. Also fighting today is world champion Sarah Stevenson, looking to come back from a knee injury. Tune in to BBC Three from 09:00.

The women's hockey gold-medal match at 20:00 has the potential to involve Great Britain, while Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills sail for gold in the women's 470 class from 12:00.

At the athletics the evening session offers the men's 4x400m and women's 4x100m relays alongside the women's 1500m final.

GB teams in action (if qualified): Basketball men's semi-finals, football men's bronze play-off, handball men's semi-finals, hockey women's medal matches, volleyball men's semi-finals, water polo men's semi-finals.

Sat 11 August - Day 15

Mo Farah may already have one title under his belt by the time he reaches his 5,000m final inside the Olympic Stadium at 19:30 BST on Saturday.

Similarly, this is a second outing for Tom Daley - this time in the men's 10m individual platform diving, having already completed the synchro event. He and Peter Waterfield are in action from 20:30 if they make the final.

Men's hockey reaches the gold medal stage inside the Olympic Park, while the first boxing finals for men could involve a handful of Britons.

At Eton Dorney, this may prove the biggest day for Team GB's hopes on the water in sprint canoeing. Watch out for Ed McKeever in the men's K1 200m, then Liam Heath and Jon Schofield over the 200m distance, on BBC One from 09:30.

Sailing's seventh and final day of medal races sees the Olympic regatta wrapped up with the Elliott 6m match racing class. Back in London, Saturday's concluding night of athletics also involves the men's 4x100m relay. Another gold for Bolt? Jamaica are the defending champions.

GB teams in action (if qualified): Basketball women's medal matches, football men's final, handball women's medal matches, hockey men's medal matches, volleyball women's medal matches.

Sun 12 August - Day 16

Starting the final day of action is the men's marathon from 13:00 BST on BBC One, followed by the remaining boxing finals.

There is live men's mountain biking from Hadleigh Farm at 13:30, followed by the final of the men's basketball, where the US team are likely to face the ultimate test - can they live up to the "Dream Team" tag of Olympics past?

The very last gold medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games will come in Greenwich Park at around 18:00, despite having started on the Olympic Park some 10 hours earlier: women's modern pentathlon.

GB's Mhairi Spence is the sport's world champion. Can she come through a gruelling day of fencing, swimming, riding and a combined run-shoot finale to add the Olympic title?

GB teams in action (if qualified): Basketball men's medal matches, handball men's medal matches, volleyball men's medal matches, water polo men's medal matches.