Five athletes who could be the stars of the show in Beijing
1) USAIN BOLT
Born: Trelawny, Jamaica
The Jamaican is the comatose side of laidback and, at the time of writing, is still unsure whether to run in the 100m as well as the 200m. This is mindboggling to most given he ran 9.72sec to break the world record a couple of months ago in only his fifth race at the distance. Bolt's showdown with Asafa Powell his old friend from Jamaica, and Tyson Gay, the world champion from the USA, will be one of the Olympic highlights. The clever money is on Bolt, assuming his coach Glen Mills decides to enter him, but Gay has big-night temperament if he has recovered from his hamstring problem.
2) LIU XIANG
Born: Shanghai, China
You sense this is going to end in a billion tears. The high hurdler is a megastar of David Beckham proportions in China because he is an Olympic champion at a power and speed event, thus debunking racial stereotypes. The pressure on him is huge and he admits he cannot lead a normal life. It is a shame, then, that Cuba's Dayron Robles has suddenly hit top form, taking Liu's world record while China's great hope struggles with injury. The atmosphere for the 110m hurdles will be the most electric of the Games.
3) YELENA ISINBAYEVA
Born: Volgograd, Russia
As Liu is hot property in China, so too Isinbayeva counts politicians, oligarchs and sporting celebrities like Michael Schumacher as her friends. She has set 22 world records at the pole vault, the maddest event of the track and field programme, and has a love of fast cars, chic clothes and, er, dolphins. There is more chance of Beijing being declared an eco-friendly paradise than Isinbayeva losing, but watch her go for another record.
4) JEREMY WARINER
Born: Irving, Texas
He has been talking about breaking Michael Johnson's 400m world record of 43.18sec seemingly since his nappies and rusks phase. However, he suddenly has a major problem in the form of LaShawn Merritt, a fellow American, who has beaten him twice this season. The outcome of the gold is now no foregone conclusion, but the threat of losing his title might just propel Wariner ever closer to Johnson's fabled mark.
5) CAROLINA KLUFT
Born: Sandhult, Sweden
It takes someone special to turn their back on an almost certain gold medal for a new challenge. Kluft, the glamour girl of Swedish sport, was simply unbeatable in the heptathlon and so decided to look elsewhere for her kicks. She opted to go for the long jump where she is currently outside the world's top ten. However, Kluft should never been written off and if she adds a another Olympic medal to her mantelpiece it will be one of the feats of the Games.
Others to watch: Pamela Jelimo, the Kenyan 18-year-old who has taken the 800m by storm, Allyson Felix, the American star denied the chance to run at 400m as well as 200m by daft scheduling and Ryan Hall, Felix's compatriot trying to end the African dominance of the marathon. (Rick Broadbent TIMESONLINE)