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Those key London 2012 Olympics dates

Whether the ticket allocation lottery has smiled on you or (more likely) disappointed, now is the time to start planning for next summer's Olympic highlights. We picked out a few key London 2012 Olympics dates so you can make sure that minor stuff like work, weddings, operations and the like aren't allowed to affect your viewing schedule.

The football preliminaries in the men's and women's tournaments kick off proceedings on July 25 and 26. For once the football matches were among the easiest events to find tickets for, and the early matches take the Olympics around the UK, with the first games in Cardiff, Coventry, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle.

The opening ceremony, the extravaganza that will light the torch at the Olympic Stadium, takes place on the evening of July 27. Unless you are a VIP or very lucky, you're unlikely to have a ticket for this, but you won't want to miss what the huge teams of technicians and choreographers have come up with to impress a watching world, so book the comfiest armchair in front of the TV.

The big one, the men's 100 metres final, no doubt featuring the amazing Usain Bolt, takes place on August 5 in the Olympic Stadium. It's all over in around 10 seconds (or 9 and three-quarters if the winner has the world record in his sights), but it's one of those events that every spectator feels privileged to witness.

Missed out on tickets? Don't worry, everybody can join in for the marathons, lining the streets of London on August 5 for the women's marathon and August 12 for the men's event. It's a great opportunity to cheer on the world's finest distance runners up close. Who knows, plucky Paula Radcliffe may yet be among the contenders.

The last of the important London 2012 Olympics dates is August 12 when the closing ceremony brings down the curtain on the games. There are bound to be tears before bedtime as we wave goodbye to the first British Olympics in 64 years.

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