January 13, 2014

Watching the 2014 Winter Olympics online

Watching the 2014 Winter Olympics online

Olympic ringsOnce again, it’s time for this year’s Olympics. The 2014 Winter Olympics are being held this year in Sochi, Russia, from February 7-23. This year’s location alone has garnered its own controversy, due to Russia’s recent enforcing of anti-gay policies.

This  year’s Olympics in the United States will be carried, as usual, by NBC. From recent reports of not carrying the opening ceremonies live (on TV or online), it seems NBC plans to conduct its Olympic coverage this year similarly to how it covered the 2012 games—usage of its various cable channels, streaming the entirety of the games live online (though only for cable TV subscribers), and tape-delaying various events for primetime broadcasting only. Unfortunately, NBC’s primetime television coverage has traditionally been awful.

To avoid repeating myself, here’s my 2012 Summer Olympics article that summarized NBC’s pros and cons of coverage. Not much has changed for 2014, for better or worse.

While I’ll probably use some of NBC’s streaming coverage of events, which worked well enough in 2012 (no NBC announcers, mostly generic Olympic feeds, and live coverage of everything) and some cable TV coverage, for some events—such as the opening and closing ceremonies, and perhaps hockey coverage—this year I plan to give a proxy/virtual private network (VPN) a go. Through a proxy, one’s computer is made to seem as if it’s online from a different country; thus, one can access another country’s normally region-blocked streaming coverage of telecasts such as the Olympics. From my testing, the service Tunnelbear has worked well for me (testing CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” streaming broadcasts), and is very easy to use on a Mac or PC. While there’s 500MB of data access provided for free (with an extra 1GB available if one posts about Tunnelbear on Twitter), I suspect it’s too little data for my purposes, so I’ll be paying for the monthly unlimited access for $5/month.

With such proxy access, I should be able to watch CBC’s coverage of the opening ceremonies pre-recorded on their website. Yes, pre-recorded—since I’ll be at work while the ceremony happens. Tunnelbear provides iOS and Android apps/access, but CBC’s website relies on Flash, which my Android phone obviously lacks. An alternative, I suppose, is that someone will likely upload CBC/BBC footage of the opening ceremonies on YouTube; while YouTube takes such Olympic videos down in fairly short order, there’s enough people uploading such that one can likely see the opening anyway.

As for why the hoop-jumping on my part? NBC’s opening ceremony coverage, including the parade of nations, is always the worst part of their Olympic broadcasts. The announcers often come off sounding excessively jingoistic/nationalistic, or are prone to making tacky or clueless remarks about other countries. It doesn’t help that the parade of nations are my favorite part of the whole opening ceremony. Thus, the opening ceremonies/parade of nations will be the one thing I’ll be sure not to watch through the Peacock Network if I can help it.

For those on Linux who also want to access other nations’ coverage, other VPN/proxy services should work with Linux. As for watching NBC’s Olympics streaming, it’s possible through Linux if Flash is installed, though one should make sure the HAL module is installed; from a terminal, enter: sudo apt-get install hal

That’s all the advice I have for watching the games; I’ll probably have more to say (on Twitter, etc.) once the Olympics arrive. For now, enjoy the games…

Tags: BBCCBCNBCOlympicsproxyTechTunnelbearVPN