How to watch the Winter Olympics online
18th Feb 2014 | 23:22
The best ways to live stream the 2014 Sochi Winter Games
Olympics online schedule, stars and medal count
Update: Watching the Winter Olympics schedule of events online and keeping track of the medal count are our focus now that the Opening Ceremony is over, and we've updated this story to reflect that.
Live streaming the Winter Olympics online has become as much of a tradition as the torch-lighting ceremony because TV networks haven't been willing to broadcast the games in real-time through normal channels. The 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia are no different, as the host city is half-way around the world for many fans.
In the past, time-zone differences have meant watching tape-delayed events on TV, including some of the most popular sports: figure skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding and hockey. The internet, especially Twitter, has played spoiler to who won the gold medal in each.
But the web has also provided a solution through online streaming more Olympic events than any one network can handle. NBC is in the middle of airing more than 1,500 hours of Winter Games coverage through its TV networks, websites and apps.
It's a vast amount of content, but finding the more than 1,000 hours that are supposed to be streamed through the web has become an Olympic sport of its own and requires practice, practice, practice.
Winter Olympics schedule online
The easiest method of keeping track of the Winter Olympics schedule is through Google, as the search engine flexes its Knowledge Graph when you type in "olympics schedule."
It breaks down of the actual event start times (in your time zone) according to the online live stream. That's often different from the tape-delayed Winter Olympics TV schedule because stations can't support as many broadcasts as the internet.
Of the 98 Winter Olympics events streamed live, this week's most exciting events that you should see in real time include Men's Ice Hockey quarterfinals begin on Wednesday with Sweden and Slovenia dropping the puck at 12:00 a.m. PST (8:00 GMT, 7:00 p.m. AEST).
Team Russian fights on against Finland at 4:30 a.m. PST (12:30 GMT, 11:30 p.m. AEST), while its Team USA vs the Czech Republic and Team Canada vs Latvia is a much more reasonable hour in North America: 9:00 am PST (17:00 GMT, the next day 4:00 a.m. AEST).
The Men's Ice Hockey semifinals are scheduled for Friday and the finals can be watched online during the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. In the meantime, Women's Ice Hockey also has an exciting match coming up, with Team USA vs Team Canada in the finals on Thursday at 9:00 am PST (17:00 GMT, the next day 4:00 a.m. AEST).
More skating and less checking happens in Figure Skating's Ladies Short program at 7:00 a.m. PST (15:00 GMT, the next day 2:00 a.m. AEST) on Wednesday, and Ladies Free Skating at the same time on Thursday.
Breakout stars to live stream
First-time and veteran Olympians have descended upon Sochi, whether or not the Russian beach town was ready for the Winter Games.
Olympic athletes like Lolo Jones from the USA bobsled team certainly seemed ready. She has participated in both Winter and Summer Olympic games having also been a track and field runner. Jones is still in the running for her first medal, but is unlikely to stand on the podium in her current standing. The good news is that fellow American bobsled team USA-1, Lauryn Williams and Elana Meyers, are sitting in first place.
GoPro Hero 3+ owner David Wise from Team USA also helped spearhead the debut of Half-pipe Skiing at the Winter Olympics this year, and won a gold medal doing so. You can watch his mesmerizing videos from the first-person and pole perspective.
From the UK, Skeleton star Lizzy Yarnold spent her Valentine's Day hugging a sled while traveling down a frozen track. Her dedication paid off. The World Cup winner rocketed her way to a gold medal at g-force speeds on February 14.
British Curing stars Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch are traveling down the ice sheet to stardom too. Muirhead leads the British women's curling team on Thursday, February 20 at 8:30 GMT, while Murdoch does the same for the Men's team that same day at 13:30. Both bronze medal-level events will be live streamed and broadcast on BBC Two at those times.
Winter Olympics medal count
Google is also using its Knowledge Graph to keep track of Winter Olympic medal counts. Its special search syntax feature has really expanded beyond finding out the weather and movie times.
Germany is still leading with the most golds, while the US and the Netherlands are tied with the highest overall medal counts. Team Norway is in second place with seven gold medals and 18 overall.
Team USA has 6 gold medals of their over 20 medal total, while Team Great Britain has one gold and bronze thanks to Skelton champion Elizabeth Yarnoldand and snowboarder Jenny Jones.
Australia a three medals, one silver care of half-pipe snowboarder Torah Bright and two bronze medals.
The medal count is still far from final, as the Winter Olympic Games in Russia don't end until February 23, so expect the standings to change every day.
Watch the Olympics on the web and on mobile
Watch the Games on the web
The Olympics are truly an international sporting event with NBC in the US, BBC in the UK, CBC in Canada, and Network Ten in Australia all delivering snow-wall-to-snow-wall coverage on the web.
NBC is putting hard numbers behind that promise, saying it'll stream every single medal-winning performance of all 98 events in all 15 winter sport disciplines through NBCOlympics.com.
That's easier said than done. Users must first pass through NBC's strict authentication methods that require logging in via a cable or satellite account. This means cord cutters and over-the-air antenna watchers are locked out.
Once authenticated, it's up to NBC to make good on its promise to competently stream the Games. The #nbcfail hashtag was born two years ago out of users' frustration at buffering times during the Summer Olympic Games in London. It was impossible to faithfully watch a second of some of the most popular streams in real-time; the 100-meter dash consisted of a starting gun and an instant winner thanks to choppy video. This year will hopefully be different.
Canada, through the CBC, has restrictions in place so that non-Canadian geo-tagged IP addresses prevent them from tapping into the network's live Opening Ceremony feed. A VPN workaround is required to watch it in the morning vs its tape-delayed broadcast on NBC.
The BBC will attempt a similar feat in the UK by streaming the Opening Ceremony at at the odd time of 4:14 p.m. GMT today. It'll also boast six HD streams with a total of 650 hours of Winter Olympics coverage through its BBC Sport website.
In Australia, the Ten Network has the rights to broadcast the Olympics and a streaming platform to go along with that via its Ten Play website. You can watch the Opening Ceremony live through its broadcast stations Ten and One.
Watch the Games on a mobile device
Live streaming through smartphones and tablets is more prevalent at the Sochi Winter Olympics compared to four years ago when the Vancouver Games were held. After all, the iPad hadn't even been announced at the time.
Networks are no longer turning a cold shoulder to tiny screens, with apps available on all three major platforms: iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.
In fact, NBC has two apps dedicated to its 1,000-plus hours of mobile streaming content. NBC Sports Live Extra and its second-screen NBC Olympics Highlights and Results. Live Extra is obviously the more desired app of the two due to its live streaming capabilities, but like the NBCOlympics.com website, it too requires account authentication.
The official CBC Sochi 2014 app is the best way for Canadian viewers to watch the games on the go from an iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 device.
The BBC Sport app works on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and while we haven't found a way for Windows Phone 8 users to enjoy the games in the UK, the network is catering to owners of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets.
Australia's Ten Network has live mobile feed has eight simultaneous streams available on both iOS and Android devices.
Streaming Olympics to TV and the Opening Ceremony
How to stream to a TV
Appreciating the frozen landscape of Sochi, Russia by watching the Winter Olympics on a normal-sized TV without a cable box or a satellite dish requires some extra gadgets.
Comcast's ownership of NBC Universal means that the American cable company's Xfinity X1 DVR is getting special treatment. The NBC Live Extra app shows up right on the set-top box.
The BBC has a similar deal in the UK if you own a Virgin Media TiVo, Sony Freeview Smart TV or have a connected TV with the BBC Sport app. Its Connected Red Button service has all six live streams as well as on-demand video right on the big screen.
The easiest way to beam the Olympics' streaming picture from an Apple computer, smartphone or tablet to an Apple TV via AirPlay mirroring. This wireless connection beats having to run wires from a device to the television, and Google's Chromecast doesn't have similar mirroring just yet.
This is as long as NBC doesn't disable AirPlay mirroring like Fox Sports Go did for the English version of its Super Bowl live streaming app earlier this week. For some reason, the Spanish-language feed worked just fine.
Alternatively, you can always run an HDMI or Mini DisplayPort cable from a computer or laptop to the TV for the hardwired method of porting the small-screen picture to an HDTV.
Finally, folks in Australia will be able to tune their Sony Bravia IPTV to the Ten Play app or download it on the Xbox One and Xbox 360 to conveniently stream "catch up" coverage of the Olympics to their HDTVs. Both Sony's line of televisions and Microsoft's consoles won't stream live game coverage, though.
How to watch the Opening Ceremony
Online streaming of the Winter Olympics starts off with a whimper rather a starting pistol bang in the US because NBC won't be streaming the elaborate Opening Ceremony. It would have to air the choreographed spectacle in the morning, and that's not good for ratings (and revenue).
The Opening Ceremony will be tape-delayed to 7:30 p.m. EST in the United States, but America's neighbor to the north, Canada, will be streaming it live as will the BBC.
The problem is that geo-tagged IP addresses are sure to turn away US viewers wanting to tap. Setting up a VPN ahead of time could give you a nine hour jump on the Opening Ceremony.
Seeing this four-hour live stream, including the seemingly endless parade of athletes, at 11:30 EST may come down to whether or not your IP address is turned away at the border.
The Winter Olympic Games end on February 23 with the less extravagant Closing Ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium. It begins at 8:00 p.m. MSK in Sochi, Russia time - 11:00 a.m. EST in the US and 4:00 PM GMT - and caps off an Olympic-sized 1,000-plus of streaming hours of live content for the ages.