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Guide to the Commonwealth Games

Jul 22, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

Usain Bolt Getty Images

It is the world’s only event that brings together Usain Bolt and lawn bowlers.

The Commonwealth Games are the biggest summer multi-sport competition outside of the Olympics, held every four years. This summer’s edition is in Glasgow, Scotland. The Opening Ceremony is Wednesday and the Closing Ceremony on Aug. 3.

In between, more than 4,000 athletes are expected to compete across most — but not all — Summer Olympic sports and a few non-Olympic sports, such as lawn bowls (which may be the hottest ticket in Glasgow).

The event does not have much exposure in the U.S. — not even TV coverage — since the U.S. is not part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Instead, the notable countries competing in Glasgow are Australia, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa and the nations that make up Great Britain at the Olympics, led by England.

The BBC has a more detailed day-by-day outlook, but here are sport-by-sport capsules highlighting athletes who might be familiar to the U.S. audience:

Track and Field (July 27-Aug. 2)

Usain Bolt is expected to race for the first time this year in the 4x100m relay, but not any individual races, after a foot injury forced him to pull out of earlier meets. Heats are Aug. 1, and the final is Aug. 2.

He could be joined on the relay by World Championships teammates Nickel Ashmeade and Kemar Bailey-Cole, but missing are the injured Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, who is just coming back from a doping suspension.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic and World 100m champion, is, like Bolt, only expected to contest the 4x100m relay. She could be joined by two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown on the Jamaican quartet.

Individual event stars include Kenyan Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha, the subject of a documentary being aired by the BBC on Tuesday night.

The eyes of Britain will be on Mo Farah, who is slated to attempt another 5000m-10,000m double after winning gold in both events at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships.

Then there’s the most dominant athlete in track and field — New Zealand’s Valerie Adams, who has won more than 50 straight shot put competitions.

Swimming (Thursday through Tuesday; heats 5:30 a.m. ET; finals 2 p.m. ET)

Americans get the chance to size up the top competition for the Pan Pacific Championships (Aug. 21-24, Gold Coast, Australia). Australia, South Africa and Canada are among the nations that compete in both the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs.

The Aussies sent their biggest stars to Glasgow, led by World champions James Magnussen (100m freestyle), Christian Sprenger (100m breaststroke) and Cate Campbell (100m freestyle) and the decorated Alicia Coutts.

South Africa boasts its Olympic champions, Cameron van der Burgh (100m breast) and Chad le Clos (100m butterfly). Canada’s roster includes Olympic and World Championships 1500m silver medalist Ryan Cochrane.

Gymnastics (July 28-Aug. 1)

The world’s dominant gymnastics nations — China, Japan, the U.S., Russia, Romania — aren’t at the Commonwealth Games. So, the focus goes to British gymnasts, who are divided among England and Scotland.

England features four of the five men from Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic bronze medal-winning team — Louis SmithMax WhitlockKristian Thomas and Sam Oldham. The fifth man from the Olympics, Daniel Purvis, competes for Scotland along with 2009 World all-around silver medalist Daniel Keatings.

There is one Olympic team champion in Glasgow, Australian Naoya Tsukahara, 37 and the son of the great Mitsuo Tsukahara, who won gold with Japan at Athens 2004.

Diving (July 30-Aug. 2; finals 6:30 a.m. ET and 1 p.m. ET)

The world’s best divers just finished the biggest meet of the year, the World Cup in Shanghai, but a few reconvene at Commonwealths.

The star is undoubtedly Tom Daley, the 2012 Olympic platform bronze medalist from England. Daley took fourth at the World Cup in Shanghai.

Cycling

England’s Bradley Wiggins takes part in the Commonwealth Games after not being named to Team Sky’s squad for the Tour de France, which he won in 2012 (along with the Olympic time trial). Wiggins will ride on the track — not the road — in Glasgow, and he will only do one event, the team pursuit on Thursday.

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