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How to watch the Olympics on the Internet

There are many ways to watch the 2012 London Olympics online, but it's often not easy.

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols on Fri, 07/27/12 - 3:49pm.

The simple way to watch the London Olympics is to just turn on your cable or satellite-connected TV and watch the NBC Olympics coverage on conventional television. If you want to watch the London Olympics via the Internet, though, things get complicated.

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First, NBC's "Live Extra" Internet Olympics coverage requires that you have a cable, satellite or telephone company TV, such as AT&T Uverse,  subscription that includes MSNBC and CNBC. If you get your TV purely over the Internet or over the air (OTA) with an antenna, you're out of luck. You're also not going to be watching the Olympics live over the Internet if you have a basic TV subscription that doesn't include MSNBC or CNBC.

Think you're ready to go? Not so fast, buddy. If you're lucky, you'll be "automatically" validated without needing to login in. Chances are though that you'll need to jump through NBC's Olympic hoops first. For starters, you need to tell NBC who you're getting your TV from, then you need to give them your user ID and password for your TV service. NBC says they don't keep this information. They're just passing it on to your TV provider to see if you really do have a TV subscription with the right services.

You'll need to do this for every device - e.g. laptop, desktop, tablet - you want to use to watch the coverage on. If you check the “remember me” box when verifying your account information, you'll only have to do this once for each device.

Regardless of the device, you'll need to have Adobe Flash on it. So, yes, whether you run Linux, Mac, or Windows you can watch this year's live events on your PC.

If you have an iPad or iPhone you can still watch the games without Flash, but you'll need a special application. There are several but the best is probably the “official” NBC Olympics Live Extra app.

There's also an “official” Olympics application for Android as well. However, you'll need Android 2.3.3 or higher so older Android phones won't be able to use it. I'm also vexed to report that it won't work on many newer tablets, including Google's own Nexus 7.  Say it with me folks: "FAIL!"

I also have to say that, with Android or iOS, the live video quality isn't that good. I'm seeing lots of freezes and lock ups on both my iPad and my Android devices even when I'm using a high-speed Wi-Fi connection.

If you live outside the U.S., you may actually have an easier time watching the games over the Internet. The IOC's official Olympics YouTube channel offers fans "across 64 territories in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa" more than 2,200 hours of high-definition coverage, for free. Canadians can watch some of the Olympics' coverage via the CTVOlympics YouTube channel.

As for media-extender devices, such as Apple TV, Google TV, Roku, etc., you're pretty much out of luck. The major networks, including NBC, block their websites from these devices, of course.

That isn't to say it will be impossible. Roku claims that while you can't watch the games live, the BBC will make recordings available to Roku and BBC iPlayer users after the fact. I have a sneaking suspicion though that if you're not in the UK, you won't be able to see these either.

If you have an Apple TV, you might be able to throw your web video to your Apple TV and from there to your television. To do that you need to have AirPlay Mirroring on your late-model iPhone or iPad running iOS 5.x or higher, or some newer Mac running Mountain Lion. Keep in mind that to try this with a Mac you have to have one of the following newer Mac models: iMac (mid-2011 or newer), Mac mini (mid-2011 or newer), MacBook Air (mid-2011 or newer), and MacBook Pro (early 2011 or newer).

Good luck and may your favorite device bring your favorite athletes and team to you.