When it comes to the Olympics the preferred version of the game is association football rather than American football or Aussie rules, both of which have appeared as demonstration sports.
For the hosts though it's more a case of political football. Great Britain has not competed in the Olympic qualifying competition since 1974 and has not contested the finals since 1960. Preparations for 2012 have taken place against a backdrop of the football authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales objecting to the formation of a united side because of fears they may lose their independent status within FIFA.
At the London Games, the men's teams will only be allowed to select three players over the age of 23. There are no age restrictions in the women's event.
The competition will begin with a group stage and build up to a knock-out tournament, with the first matches actually taking place two days before the opening ceremony.
Great Britain's men will be in with a chance of winning a record fourth gold medal. They currently share top spot in the medals table with Hungary but the most recent of Britain's three wins came in 1912.
After Great Britain, Uruguay in 1928 became only the second team to win successive football gold medals — and they never entered the competition again. Hungary won a second successive title — and third overall — in 1968. No nation has won three Olympic football titles in a row, but Argentina have won the last two.
In recent years the tournament has featured some of the stars of the global game. Bebeto and Hernán Crespo finished joint top scorers with six goals each in 2000 and Carlos Tévez was top with eight goals in 2004.
Since the introduction of women's football at the Olympics in 1996 the United States have won three tournaments, their domination only interrupted by Norway in 2000.
EVENTS / FAVOURITES / FORMAT:
5 United Arab Emirates
1 United States
The teams are divided into groups of four (three groups in the women’s tournament, four groups for the men), and the best eight teams qualify for the quarter-finals.
The competition is played in a knockout format: the two winning semi-finalists play for the gold medal, and the two losing semi-finalists compete for the bronze with extra time and penalty shoot-outs used to decide drawn matches during the knockout stages
ALL-TIME MEDAL TABLE: