How to keep up with the Olympics in Australia

From the Opening to Closing Ceremonies and everything in between, here's how to stay up to date with Olympic events

The 2012 London Olympic Games is finally here. If you’re in Australia, you’re able to stay in touch with every second of the Games — there’s free-to-air TV, cable TV, online video, radio, websites and public video screens to occupy your time and attention.

Channel Nine is showing daily coverage of the highlights of the Olympics all around Australia on free-to-air analog and digital TV, but for even better coverage you're going to want Foxtel. You can watch Foxtel online or on your tablet, too. If you’re away from a TV and don’t subscribe to Foxtel, there are still some alternatives. Here's our guide to watching the 2012 London Olympics in Australia.

Free-to-air TV

The Nine Network is the exclusive Australian broadcaster of the 2012 London Olympic Games — God knows we've heard that enough times in the last month during the network's advertising blitz. In the next two weeks, it's devoting over half its air-time to Olympics programming — the first day has a whopping 13.5 hours of ceremony and competition, for example. Busy competition days have over 16 hours of footage. That's a total of 300 hours of coverage over the Games fortnight.

Nine's coverage kicks off on the morning of Saturday 28 July at 5:30AM, with a live broadcast of the Opening Ceremony on Channel 9/WIN/NBN (digital and analog) and GEM (digital). This is re-broadcast at 2PM, and then there's a daily competition highlights package at 6:30PM and 11PM.

For Day 2 onwards, expect to see constant coverage from midnight until 11AM, with live events, finals and medal ceremonies. 9AM-11AM is the London Gold daily highlights package, including all gold medal events. This program is re-broadcast around 4PM each day. 6:50PM until midnight is for live and highlights of the day's events.

The closing ceremony will be on 13 August at 5:30AM, and will be broadcast live on Channel Nine/WIN/NBN and GEM. It should be re-broadcast later in the day, probably at 2PM, if you don't want to get up early.

Channel Nine/WIN/NBN and GEM seem to largely mirror each other in Olympic programming, but there might be some minor variances, especially in the timing of the afternoon London Gold highlight broadcast.

Channel Nine is also running a 3D channel for the length of the Olympics, in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Perth and Adelaide. If you live in these areas and re-scan your digital TV channels, you'll find a new station on digital channel 95 (RF 35): this is the 3D-only broadcast, which you'll need a 3D TV to watch.

All times shown are Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), appropriate for Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane. Subtract half an hour off the stated times for Adelaide and Darwin (11AM becomes 10:30AM), or subtract two hours for Perth (11AM becomes 9AM). Your local Nine Network station may vary: it should be Channel 9 in metropolitan areas, WIN in regional areas around Australia (except SA), or NBN in northern NSW.

Subscription TV

Foxtel is your go-to for cable TV streaming of the Olympics. It’s by far the most comprehensive option for watching the 2012 London Games in Australia, with eight dedicated channels constantly showing coverage of different events, every gold medal live, and in high definition (on iQ HD plans). That's a total of 3200 hours of coverage, 1100 of which is live. The downside — you’ve got to have a cable or satellite dish installed and sign up for a (pretty expensive) monthly plan.

Foxtel has a companion iPad app (with some Android tablets, too) for any Foxtel subscriber with the Sports package. You can use it to stream the same eight London 2012 channels as Foxtel cable, over Wi-Fi or mobile 3G, and the app has a brilliant program guide, results tally and recommendations. Unfortunately, it’s only for cable subscribers. You can also keep up via the Follow The Games Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Online and streaming Internet TV

Foxtel is a strong player here as well. If you’ve got a recent Samsung TV or an Xbox 360, you’re in luck: there are Foxtel on Internet TV and Foxtel on Xbox apps for these devices, both of which are surprisingly good. They both show you the full eight Foxtel Olympic channels for the length of the Games for a $50 one-off fee, using your home Internet connection (so make sure you’ve got enough bandwidth and download quota).

Like the Foxtel iPad app, the quality is excellent given that it’s a streaming setup. You can select High, Medium and Low quality settings, and the High setting worked perfectly on our garden-variety ADSL2+ connection with minimal buffering and surprisingly good video detail. It looks very nearly as good as high definition free-to-air digital TV.

Foxtel on Xbox is what we’ll be using to watch the Olympics. We’ve already got a couple of Xbox consoles set up, and the (relatively) cheap one-off fee is worth it for the amount of content on offer — invaluable if you are a keen Games watcher.

If you have access to international TV streaming sites — maybe you live outside of Australia, or use a VPN, or something else like UnoDNS — the two most comprehensive services that we’re aware of are the BBC iPlayer and NBC Olympics. Both offer live streaming and catch-up, but you’ll need to be tech-savvy to access these free video streaming services — you're not technically allowed to view them from Australia.

On the radio

Maybe you want to sit back and read your copy of How To Watch The Olympics and listen to live commentary — for that, you’re well-served listening to 2GB in Sydney, 3AW in Melbourne, 4BC in Brisbane, and 6PR in Perth. These stations are the official rights broadcasters for the London 2012 Games in Australia. They have coverage from 7PM-7AM daily, as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies — here’s all the information you’ll need.

The ABC has comprehensive coverage of the Olympics through its national radio network, with AM, digital and online radio streams for live coverage and highlights — hit the link for all the details. If you’ve got a digital radio you can listen to the dedicated ABC London 2012 Digital radio station, and if you’re online you can listen to the ABC Grandstand website and the ABC Local Radio website (at certain times) for Games commentary. You can find the ABC Radio schedule for Olympic Games radio broadcasts here.

On the Web

If you don’t have time to watch TV, stream a video or listen to the radio, there are hundreds of ways to keep up with Olympic happenings from an Australian perspective online. We’ve short-listed a few of the best:

NineMSN’s Wide World of Sports website has a dedicated London 2012 section, packed with information including video grabs from the Channel 9 feed.

ABC Grandstand Sport is our current favourite — it’s full of information, looks great and hooks in well with an official Twitter feed and Facebook page.

SBS has a dedicated Olympics news section on its website, with a daily event schedule.

SMH has an Olympics landing page, with news, photos, results, medal tallies, and the @smhsport Twitter tie-in. also gets a look-in with a similarly feature-packed site: news, trivia, video, galleries, gossip and the like.

In your city

We tip our hats to Time Out for this one — they have a couple of guides on where to watch the Olympics in Sydney and Melbourne, with details on massive screen setups and the best pubs to share the Olympic spirit in.

Where to watch the Olympics in Sydney: our top pick would be the big screen at Customs House, running from 6AM to 6PM with live events and highlights.

Where to watch the Olympics in Melbourne: Again, our preference goes to a public space with the Fed Square big screen running the Channel 9 TV schedule.

If you’re in Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide, you’re out of luck — it looks like there are no big screens in public spaces that are official Live Sites for the London 2012 Olympics. Head into your favourite pub with a few mates and gather around a screen with a beer or two.

Got any questions? Let us know in the comments field below and we’ll do our best to help you out.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

PC World
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