Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps displays his first gold medal of the Games after winning the men's 400-meter individual medley and breaking his own world record in Beijing. After a slow start, he finished with a time of 4 minutes, 3.84 seconds. (Getty Images / August 10, 2008)

About the only thing that didn't go smoothly was the playing of the national anthem. The recording started late, then cut of before the final line, right after "land of the free."

Phelps just shrugged his shoulders and laughed when the song stopped playing. Odds are, the Chinese will have plenty of chances to get it right throughout the week.

What's Next for Phelps
EVENT: 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is probably the toughest challenge for Phelps. France has already declared itself the favorite, with Alan Bernard saying the French will "smash" the Americans. Look for Phelps to swim the lead leg, just as he did in Melbourne at the 2007 World Championships, when the U.S. team won gold. In Athens, the United States won a bronze in this event, when Ian Crocker led off with a poor first leg, and Phelps' swim wasn't anything special.

EVENT: 200-meter freestyle

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Phelps is the world record holder (1:43.86) and is nearly two seconds faster than the rest of the field. His closest competition, Pieter van den Hoogenband, dropped this event on the eve of the Games to focus on the 100-meter freestyle. This is the one individual event Phelps didn't win in Athens, so he'll be hungry to go fast and blow away the rest of the field. Phelps' training partner, Peter Vanderkaay, is the only swimmer with an outside shot at an upset.

EVENTS: 200-meter butterfly

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is Phelps' dominant event. He's held the world record since 2001. An upset here would be one of the biggest surprises of the Olympics. At the world championships in Melbourne last year, Phelps broke his own world record by 1.68 seconds, a Bob Beamon-esque time drop in swimming. If American Gil Stovall or Greece's Ioannis Drymonakos are within a body-length of Phelps when he touches the wall, they can consider that victory.

EVENT: 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is probably Phelps' favorite event. In Athens, when the United States won this event, he went absolutely bonkers. Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Klete Keller all have a spot on the relay cemented, and the United States coaching staff will likely choose between Erik Vendt, Ricky Berens and David Walters for the four spot. A world record here would not be a surprise.

EVENT: 200-meter individual medley

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Once again, Lochte and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary will be Phelps' closest competition. Phelps beat Lochte by nearly half-a-second at the Olympic trials, but Lochte had just finished swimming the 200-meter backstroke 25 minutes before their race. Lochte, who holds a share of the world record in the 200-meter backstroke, will face the same challenge in the Olympic final, giving Phelps all the advantage he needs to pull away.

EVENT: 100-meter butterfly

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is the only one of Phelps' events where he can't claim he's the fastest man alive. Ian Crocker, his U.S. teammate, holds the world record (50.40) and Phelps hasn't come within a half-second of that mark. Crocker hasn't gone that fast in three years, and seems to have a mental block when he races against Phelps. In Athens, Phelps trailed the entire race, but out-touched Crocker at the wall to win by .04 seconds. Expect a close race, but assume Phelps will get his hand on the wall first until Crocker proves otherwise. The winner gets to swim the fly leg of the finals in the medley relay.

EVENT: 4 x 100 medley relay

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This is always one of the most exciting events of the Olympics, because it tests a nation's overall swimming strength. Four swimmers, four specialties. Aaron Piersol will lead off by swimming the backstroke, then turn it over to Brendan Hansen, who will swim the breaststroke. Phelps then gets his shot in the butterfly before passing off to Jason Lezak. The Americans will be heavy favorites in this event, and it could be the capper to a historic meet for Phelps.