Melissa Block

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We are just a couple of hours away from the opening ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Organizers say to expect lots of samba, of course, and a lot more. NPR's Melissa Block is in Rio and is with us now. Hey, Melissa.

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

South Sudan has three runners to its first Olympic Games. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have eight athletes competing.

When Haley Anderson competes at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 15, she'll be racing for about two hours in open water off Copacabana Beach. The marathon swim is not for the faint of heart. It's 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles.

What does it take? "A certain kind of crazy," Anderson said with a grin. "You have to be a little weird to wanna put yourself through two hours or more of pain."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Olympic flame is nearly there for tomorrow night's opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Some 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries are being housed in a gigantic athletes village. NPR's Melissa Block went to check it out.

It is the world's fastest racquet sport, with speeds up to 250 miles per hour off the racquet.

And it may be one of the most misunderstood.

Badminton — that staple of backyard picnics and summer camp — becomes, at the expert level, a sport that requires lightning-quick reflexes, explosive power, stamina and agility.

Mix swimming and basketball with soccer, toss in some wrestling for good measure, and you have a pretty good description of the exciting, fast-paced sport of water polo.

The U.S. women's water polo team is ranked No. 1 in the world and is considered the favorite to bring home the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Since women's water polo became an Olympic sport in 2000, the U.S. women have medaled every time, and they won their first gold in London four years ago.

Editor's Note: Sharon Day-Monroe finished fourth in the heptathlon at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday, July 10, in Eugene, Ore., narrowly missing the Olympic team. Only the top three finishers qualified.

Sharon Day-Monroe has been to the Olympics twice, in two different events. She's been the U.S. heptathlon champion three times. And she won four consecutive U.S. indoor pentathlon titles.

It's a hugely impressive resume. But at 31, she knows this may be her last shot at Olympic glory.

Editor's Note: Vashti Cunningham made the U.S. Olympic team by finishing second in the high jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on July 3, clearing 6-foot-5 (1.97 meters). Her brother Randall Cunningham Jr. did not make the team.

Tucked amid the tumult of Lower Manhattan's Financial District, right across from a factory-outlet shoe store promising "probably" the lowest prices in the city, you'll find Alexander Hamilton's grave. With the explosive popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, that grave is seeing a surge of new fans coming to pay respects to the Founding Father.

Lillian Hasko has seen the musical twice, bought the soundtrack, and felt compelled to make the pilgrimage downtown.

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