With the XXX Summer Olympics getting under way Friday at 7:30, NBC and its various properties -- MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, NBC Sports Network, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com and two NBC Universal specialty channels (devoted exclusively to soccer and basketball) -- will provide more than 5,500 hours of coverage of the 2012 Games running through the Closing Ceremony on Aug. 12, offering live and delayed coverage of all 26 sports and all 302 medal competitions.

Bob Costas again will serve as prime-time host of the telecasts, heading a broadcast talent pool that includes Al Michaels, John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Ryan Seacrest and Dan Patrick.

For Costas, 60, this Olympics represents his 10th Games, Winter and Summer (and ninth as prime-time host), dating back to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

His all-time favorite Olympics moment, or as close as one gets for him, came in Atlanta in 1996, when Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch at Turner Field to open the XXVI Summer Games.

"It was such a well-kept secret," Costas recalls, " ... and in truth Dick Enberg and I did not know. We had begun to suspect, but we didn't know for sure. I think there were a half-dozen people who even knew. Dick Ebersol (then the president of NBC Sports) was one of them because it was his idea, actually, and he had to sell (president and CEO) Billy Payne and the Olympic committee on it."

Of course, one of the big stars of the next 17 days -- along with swimmer Michael Phelps, sprinter Usain Bolt, gymnast Alicia Sacramone and the rest of the estimated 10,500 athletes representing 204 countries -- will be the city of London itself.

These Games represent London's third Olympics and first since 1948. While it is a given that the host city will put its best foot forward, and its countrymen and women will put on a big medal push, London has another feature no other locale can match.

British royalty will make its presence known in several ways, from Queen Elizabeth II opening the Games to Princes Harry and William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, serving as official "Olympic ambassadors" and Zara Phillips -- daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips and granddaughter of the queen -- competing in equestrian.

Royalty watchers will certainly be in their glory, but Costas takes a more pragmatic view.

"Obviously it's a great, great city," he says, "with a history and a pop culture that Americans are familiar with and, I think, interested in. ... But London's a tough city to get around in under ordinary circumstances. At an Olympics, with the additional traffic and congestion and security questions, it's still going to be enjoyable, but people are going to have to approach this with the understanding that patience is going to be a real virtue."

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