THE BET: Will a UFO appear above the Olympic Stadium during opening ceremonies?
THE ODDS: Someone came to William Hill and placed a $23 bet on just that. What kind of odds from the bookmaker? 1,000/1. THE TAKE: A $23,000 payout on a $23 bet? Why not?
The Olympics are about unity and fair play and sporting excellence and, oh yeah, betting. And in England – a country where, unlike in the United States, gambling on the Olympics is legal – there will be lots of it. British gaming houses like Ladbroke’s and William Hill are taking bets on every event, the most bets being on the men’s 100-meter final. A total of some 100 million pounds – more than $150 million – is expected to be gambled on the Olympics in Britain. “They’re going to be betting on every single sport, even synchronized swimming – maybe figuring if anyone will drown,” said Julie Askem, who was standing behind a gambling counter at a Coral Casino near the British Museum on Thursday. Here are a few of the Olympic bets that will be among the most popular – and a few that are just plain silly.
THE BET: Who is going to light the Olympic flame?
THE ODDS: Sir Steve Redgrave is the favorite at 1/2, followed by Sir Roger Bannister at 6/1, a member of the Royal family at 8/1, and David Beckham at 12/1. THE TAKE: Pick the underdog – and this marks the first time the Royal family has even been considered an underdog in anything. The world would swoon at the prospect of Prince William and Kate Middleton lighting the Olympic flame together. Talk about providing a romantic spark for the world.
THE BET: Will there be rainfall during the opening ceremonies?
THE ODDS: Brits love to bet on the weather, and it’s been mighty strange here this summer: soaking wet since spring, and then a steaming hot spell (relatively speaking) over the past week. Bookmakers are favoring that it won’t rain: 4/6 odds say no rain, 11/10 odds say it will. THE TAKE: It’s still London, home of London Fog and omnipresent brollies. Bet the weather will turn gloomy.
THE BET: Will rain fall during the men’s 100-meter final?
THE ODDS: It’s favored to not rain during the most hyped single event at the Olympics. Oddsmakers put odds that it will rain at 2/1. THE TAKE: Sucker bet. Always take the rain in London, even in summer. And that could affect whether Usain Bolt breaks his own world record (or even repeats at all).
THE BET: Which country will win the most gold medals?
THE ODDS: The good old Stars and Stripes is the odds-on favorite, at 4/7 odds of taking home the biggest gold medal haul. China is the only real challenger, at 5/4, and then the rest of the countries are well behind. Next up are gymnastics-heavy Russia and the home team, Great Britain, both at 40/1. THE TAKE: USA! USA! Show some patriotism and take the Americans. It’s not a sure thing, but with Michael Phelps on the medal path again and the women’s gymnastics team looking top-notch, it’s close.
THE BET: Will Usain Bolt false start on the men’s 100-meter final?
THE ODDS: It would be the most anticlimactic moment ever, with the world-record holder (albeit one prone to false-starting) taking off too early out of the gates in the Olympics’ most-hyped event. Oddsmakers think there’s a slight chance, though: They have Bolt at 10/1 for a false start. THE TAKE: Why not take the bet? If he false starts, the world will be disappointed, but you will be jumping with joy.
THE BET: Which country will host the 2020 Summer Olympics?
THE ODDS: Tokyo is favored at 4/7, as hosting an Olympics could be a boon to the country’s morale and economy after last year’s devastating earthquake. Madrid and Istanbul are both at 3/1 odds. THE TAKE: Japan is both the sentimental and the betting favorite, but don’t underestimate Turkey’s chances. It would be a big statement by the International Olympic Committee to host an Olympics in a majority-Muslim country for the first time.
THE BET: Will every team in the 4x400 relay final drop the baton?
THE ODDS: It’s a long-shot, for sure: bookmaker William Hill has the odds at 250/1. THE TAKE: There’s eight teams running in the event that the U.S. set an Olympic record in in 2008, so that means there’s 24 chances for a baton to be dropped. But for each team to do it at least once? Fat chance. But nice odds. It’ll make someone a rich man somewhere if it happens.
THE BET: Will London Mayor Boris Johnson accidentally set his hair on fire with the Olympic torch?
THE ODDS: Bookmaker William Hill has it as 33-1. THE TAKE: The famously wacky (and wild-haired) mayor of London is known for bicycling around the capitol. He has a bit of political capital to spend in the name of entertaining the world with a singed head of hair, having just been re-elected as mayor in spring. Do it, good sir, and you’ll have some happy bettors ready to help during your next re-election.
THE BET: Will James Dasaolu win the 100-meter final?
THE ODDS: Your response is appropriate when you hear the name James Dasaolu: Who? He’s the hometown favorite, a British sprinter in the most-hyped event in the Olympic Games. He’s also dead-last of the 12 sprinters that Ladbrokes offers odds in, at 500/1. THE TAKE: Sure, throw some money away. Although there must be a chance that all the rest of the sprinters trip and fall. 500/1 sounds about right.
THE BET: The Michael Phelps six-bet parlay
THE BET: Answer all six of these yes/no questions right and you’ll get great money back on your bet at Coral Casino: Will the men's 100-meter final be won in 9.7 seconds or faster? Will Michael Phelps win either 4 or 5 golds? Will any European or African team win gold in men’s soccer? Will the USA win 39 or more golds? Will either Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake win 3 golds? Will Australia win 40 medals or more? THE ODDS: Get all six correct and you’ll get 33/1 back on your money. THE TAKE: The odds seem awful short for this six-bet parlay. There should be better ways to lose your money in London.