For many, the Olympics start in earnest on Friday, when at 10am, the first shot is heaved from the circle, out into the infield of the main stadium.
The phony war of six days of canoeing, handball and Greco-Roman wrestling will really be over when one of the poster girls of London 2012, Jessica Ennis, takes to the track for the 100 metres hurdles, the first of the seven events which comprise the heptathlon.
Most of Britain appears to have overlooked that Ennis is no longer the world champion. That’s the title she lost in Daegu 12 months ago, when Tatyana Chernova wore her down over the course of two days.
Chernova is a fabulously talented athlete, from a family of international athletes – her mother won an Olympic gold medal as part of the USSR’s 4x400m relay squad in 1980. The Russian is two years younger than Ennis, and possibly improving more than the 26-year-old Briton.
Yet Ennis is firmly 1.60 favourite, with Chernova 2.90 and Natalya Dobrynska, the 2008 Olympic gold medallist, available to back at 6.50.
Much of this is based on the form displayed earlier this summer at Gotzis, which saw an emphatic performance from the Briton. Ennis had lost in Daegu because of poor performances in the long jump and javelin – two of her weaker events – and failing to max out on points in the high jump.
At Gotzis, Ennis thumped Chernova, breaking the British heptathlon record with 6,906pts, winning by more than 100pts.
Provided she puts pressure on Chernova with a brisk 100m hurdles performance in the first event on Friday morning, Ennis might just live up to the hype.
Reports from the British training camp in Portugal this week indicated that Ennis was flying in training, which makes the 4.50 on offer for her to score more than 7,000pts in the Olympics tantalising, though Carolina Kluft’s 7,032pt European record is probably out of reach (7.00 for Ennis to break it; 1.07 for her not to).
Form in the women’s 100 metres fizzled out in the cold and rain of the last two Diamond League meetings before the Olympics. But one talent shone like a diamond: Blessing Okagbare.
Okagbare won in London and in Monaco, beating world champion Carmelita Jeter and Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and twice improving her best time. The Nigerian was fifth in Daegu last year, while four years ago, she won an Olympic bronze medal in the long jump.
Okagbare can be backed at 10.00 to win the 100m (the final is on Saturday night), and 2.50 just to medal. Fraser-Pryce is an unconvincing 2.50 favourite – her jog in the London DL purely precautionary. Jeter, at 3.25, is generously priced for a world champion.
Men's shot put
The men’s shot is the first athletics gold medal to be decided, and offers punters a real chance of profits.
Reese Hoffa can be backed at 3.75 to win the Olympic title, in a more open market than will be seen in many other events.
Hoffa’s beaten his American team mate, Christian Cantwell three times in 2012, including at the US Trials. Cantwell is rated as 3.50 favourite. That might be based on Cantwell topping the 2012 world rankings, but that performance seems odd on a number of levels – the 22.31m came at the very end of his series.
One to watch is Germany’s David Storl, the 2011 world champion, who is backable at 5.00, or 1.65 to medal, and he might well split the Americans.