Though the Opening Ceremony and all its fanfare are still two days away, the first competitions of the 2012 London Olympics got underway Wednesday with victories for the American and British women's soccer teams.
Women’s soccer had the honors of kicking off the action at Hampden Park in Scotland. The British women's soccer team were the first victors of the Games, notching a 1-0 win over New Zealand thanks to a free kick from Stephanie Houghton just over an hour into the match.
The U.S. women got off to a rough start in their match against France on Wednesday but quickly proved why they are considered favorites for a third straight gold medal with a 4-2 win.
They did so on the strength of a header from star Abby Wambach, two goals by Alex Morgan — including one kick that sent the ball soaring over the goalkeeper — and a tie-breaking by Carli Lloyd.
But there was one potentially worrisome component for the U.S., and that was that its defense let France score two goals in the first minutes of the game — more than it has let any rival score since it lost to Japan in the World Cup finals last year.
The game had been expected to be close, given how far the French team made it into the semifinals of the last World Cup.
But the American women remained unquestionably dominant Wednesday, and after their match, Wambach has 139 international goals and is fast chasing down Mia Hamm's record of 158.
The U.S. will play Colombia in its second group game on Saturday, when France faces North Korea.
The early start to the women's soccer schedule, intended to give athletes enough rest time, means less agony of anticipation, but it also means that the U.S. women’s soccer team won’t make it to London for Friday’s Opening Ceremony.
"I would love for this team to experience an Opening Ceremonies because you kind of get that feeling of what the actual Games are all about, with all the other countries and meeting different athletes from your own country. At the same time, getting to start it off with that first match of the Olympics is something special as well. We'll celebrate it together, and watch the Opening Ceremonies," USA team captain Christie Rampone told The Associated Press earlier.
Team USA’s opponents hit the field after winning 17 games in a row and placed fourth in last year’s World Cup.
The American team’s Hope Solo, largely considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world, is still excited and optimistic.
"You can feel the tension start to rise," she said before Wednesday's match. "It's a good, positive energy, and people are going into tackles harder. It's like, 'unleash the beast.' We're waiting for somebody to unleash us."
There was speculation about whether Solo would be able to participate in this year’s Games, after she tested positive for Canrenone, a banned diuretic. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accepted Solo’s explanation that the substance came from a medication prescribed to her for pre-menstrual symptoms, and issued her a warning.
Solo won a gold medal with the U.S. team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; an accomplishment the team hopes to replicate this year.