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Let the Games begin...

Ashish Bhatia gives us some valuable tips on how to comfortably watch the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on your computer.

tech reviews Updated: Aug 13, 2008 17:55 IST
Ashish Bhatia

Ten thousand five hundred athletes from 205 countries are currently competing in 302 events in 28 sports at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and you are still wondering how you're going to watch them? As you sit and mope, blaming fiscal considerations and television territorial rights for being the kill-joy on the live coverage front, let's see how we can catch some of the sporting action on the Internet right there on your PC or laptop even if you're not allowed to.

Incidentally, the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (as they are officially termed) are also going to be an acid test for Silverlight 2.0, Microsoft's emerging technology alternative to Adobe Flash for developing streaming media rich content websites. But I digress...

This year's Olympic Games event has been touted as the fattest media project in history (talk of Olympian proportions, eh?) with 3,600 hours of coverage spanning 15 days, with seven television networks (NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Oxygen, Time Warner Cable, USA Network and Universal HD) and one prime website — NBCOlympics.com broadcasting the extravaganza. But there's a hitch...

A quick visit to this NBCOlympics website for watching video will woefully get us non-US denizens a message that reads something like this: "To watch, please enter your U.S. ZIP code and select your TV service provider." Or something of the sort.

The problem is that the video footage on this (as well as other sites authorised to show Olympics videos) are geo-blocked via country/territory specific IP addresses.

Go proxy surfing
So here's a way out. To get around this hurdle just get yourself a teeny weeny 192KB Internet Explorer plugin called Ultra Surf 8.8 (www.ultrareach.com). Firefox users will have go through some extra clicks in the download section here and acquire for themselves an extra add-on. Now go back to NBCOlympics.com and try viewing the available videos. Some links may not work. But many will.

Do try NBC
On the Go (www.nbcolympics.com/onthego/index.html) if you want to download full-length events and highlights.

There's another option for accessing these videos on the NBC site--as well as the ones I have mentioned further up in this column. Try using a proxy server to mask your actual location. A proxy server receives requests intended for another server and then acts on the behalf of the client behalf (as the client proxy) to obtain the requested service. And here the ideal will be to make the site of the country think that you are located within that permitted territory .

Zip down to www.proxy .org for listing of proxies by country and take your pick out of some 7,977 currently working proxies.

Else go
YouTube If you don't want to get into Ultra Surf or mess up your mouse with this proxy server business, YouTube's (http://in.youtube.com/beijing2008) Olympics channel is your best source for all the official IOC video content.

It carries almost three hours of video footage on a daily basis that includes Beijing 2008 Olympic Games clips, highlights, summaries and wrap-up reports.

India happens to one of 77 fortunate (or maybe unfortunate, as they aren't covered by Olympic sponsors) countries to have access to this channel on YouTube. For everyone else on Planet Earth — and that includes the Americas and Europe — this YouTube resource has been geo-blocked.

Of course, there are bound to be umpteen unofficially uploaded videos out there — clipped off TV or shot by spectators with their cameras and cell phones. Though don't depend on it... Google has formally vowed to hunt out and efface all unauthorised Olympic content uploaded by the public. Yet you can expect a lot to slip though.

User streaming feeds And then there are user streaming generated video feeds like Blog TV, Justin.tv, or UStream.tv. At the time of going to press (several minutes into the Opening Ceremony) on 08.08.08 two of these sites were broadcasting the grand spectacle live. And there was nothing at all official about it. These may be nowyou-see-it, now-you-don't erratic affairs. Therefore, keep these sites monitored and your peepers peeled.

You never know when you will encounter some nice spot reporting and live coverage.

The best of the rest You will find the following sites loaded with hun dreds (or even thousands) of hours of Games video coverage. Unfortunately however access to these motion pictures are again geo-embargoed for us Bharatvasis -- unless you try circumventing it using those aforementioned proxy techniques.

Proxy.org zindabad! BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/vide o_and_audio/default.stm) China Central TV (http://english.cctv.com/index.shtml) CBC (www.cbc.ca/olympics/livevideo) Eurosport (http://eurosport.yahoo.com)-- no (www.itsgame ItsGameTime time.tv/OlympicsLive.html) (www.ar.terra.com/ TerraTV shared/pekin2008/ ) TV Tonic (http://www.itsgametime.tv/OlympicsLive.html) Yahoo7 (http://au.yahoo.com/)

The author is a part-time publishing consultant and a full-time devotee of all things tech. He can be contacted at ashishone@gmail.com