2018 Olympics Viewing Guide: When and How to Watch

FasterSkierFebruary 6, 2018
Canada’s Ivan Babikov (18) leads American Noah Hoffman (26) and Canada’s Alex Harvey (4), among others, in the men’s 30 k skiathlon at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

This article has been edited to include a link to an updated and more detailed guide to NBC’s television coverage.

You may have heard that the Olympics are coming up soon. Your favorite athlete’s social media platform is probably showing them sitting on an airplane, going through Olympic processing, or wearing Those Gloves right about now. Plus Noah Hoffman is blogging again, which is the surest sign yet that the Games of the XXIII Winter Olympiad are nearly upon us. (Seriously, though, Noah’s blog is not to be missed for any ski fan; the man’s output is prodigious and his insight keen, and he provides a perspective that you will find literally nowhere else.)

When are the races?

First off, when are the cross-country ski races? Surprisingly late, if you’re an athlete on the ground in PyeongChang starting a sprint qualifier at 5:30 p.m. local time (!) or a sprint final at 9:30 p.m. (!!). Surprisingly early, if you’re on the East Coast of this country and weren’t planning on waking up at 4:30 a.m. to watch the women’s relay. And at surprisingly humane late evening times, if you live in Alaska and may actually get to watch skiing at 9 or 10 p.m. for once rather than the 2 to 3 a.m. time slot that typically characterizes European World Cup races.

Here is the master schedule for all of the cross-country ski events. Note that South Korea is an impressive 18 hours ahead of Alaska, and 14 hours ahead of the East Coast, and so any event starting before 6 p.m. local time in South Korea will occur on the preceding day in Alaska.

The schedule linked above should automatically update the “My Time” entry to show the event time relative to your time zone. That said, here is FasterSkier’s reading of the master schedule for cross-country, keyed to the two extremes of the Alaska Time Zone and Eastern Time Zone (with apologies to readers in the Hawaii–Aleutian, Pacific, Mountain, and Central time zones, you should be able to extrapolate from these readily enough):

  • Women’s skiathlon: 10:15 p.m. Feb. 9 Alaska time / 2:15 a.m. Feb. 10 East Coast time
  • Men’s skiathlon: 9:15 p.m. Feb. 10 Alaska / 1:15 a.m. Feb. 11 East Coast
  • Classic sprint: 11:30 p.m. Feb. 12 (qualification), 2 a.m. Feb. 13 (heats), 3:25 a.m. Feb. 13 (finals), Alaska / 3:30 a.m. Feb. 13 (qualification), 6 a.m. Feb. 13 (heats), 7:25 a.m. Feb. 13 (finals), East Coast
  • Women’s 10 k skate: 9:30 p.m. Feb. 14 Alaska / 1:30 a.m. Feb. 15 East Coast
  • Men’s 15 k skate: 9 p.m. Feb. 15 Alaska / 1 a.m. Feb. 16 East Coast
  • Women’s relay: 12:30 a.m. Feb. 17 Alaska / 4:30 a.m. Feb. 17 East Coast
  • Men’s relay: 9:15 p.m. Feb. 17 Alaska / 1:15 a.m. Feb. 18 East Coast
  • Freestyle team sprint: 11 p.m. Feb. 20 (semifinals), 1 a.m. Feb. 21 (women’s final), 1:30 a.m. Feb. 21 (men’s final), Alaska / 3 a.m. Feb. 21 (semifinals), 5 a.m. Feb. 21 (women’s final), 5:30 a.m. Feb. 21 (men’s final), East Coast
  • Men’s 50 k classic mass start: 8 p.m. Feb. 23 Alaska / 12 a.m. Feb. 24 East Coast
  • Women’s 30 k classic mass start: 9:15 p.m. Feb. 24 Alaska / 1:15 a.m. Feb. 25 East Coast

Here’s the comparable schedule for biathlon:

(all times EST)

  • Feb. 10: Women’s 7.5 k sprint (6:15 a.m.)
  • Feb. 11: Men’s 10 k sprint (6:15 a.m.)
  • Feb. 12: Women’s 10 k pursuit (5:10 a.m.) + men’s 12.5 k pursuit (7 a.m.)
  • Feb. 14: Women’s 15 k individual (6:05 a.m.)
  • Feb. 15: Men’s 20 k individual (6:00 a.m.)
  • Feb. 17: Women’s 12.5 k mass start (6:15 a.m.)
  • Feb. 18: Men’s 15 k mass start (6:15 a.m.)
  • Feb. 20: Mixed relay (6:15 a.m.)
  • Feb. 22: Women’s 4 x 6 k relay (6:15 a.m.)
  • Feb. 23: Men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay (6:15 a.m.)

And for nordic combined:

(all times EST)

  • Feb. 14: Individual normal hill/10 k Gundersen (jumping at 1 a.m./skiing at 3:45 a.m.)
  • Feb. 20: Individual large hill/10 k Gundersen (jumping at 5 a.m./skiing at 7:45 a.m.)
  • Feb. 22: 4 x 5 k team event (jumping at 2:30 a.m./skiing at 5:20 a.m.)

And how to watch them?

There’s a simple answer if you’d like to watch the races live, and potentially a simple answer if you’d like to watch them after the fact.

If you want to watch live coverage, and you have a current cable subscription that includes the networks of NBCUniversal (CNBC, NBCSN, USA, and NBC), then use your cable subscriber email and password to log into the relevant NBC livestream website or NBC sports app (NBC iOS App / NBC Android App / NBC Roku App). Probably do this first on a dry run ahead of time in order to make sure that the technology works.

(You could also, theoretically, watch this on the actual NBC “channels” currently “broadcasting” on your actual old media “television.” However, this assumes that NBCSN will actually be broadcasting cross-country skiing at that time, as opposed to, say, figure skating reruns or alpine skiing. That may, sadly, be a somewhat charitable assumption, and even if it’s not it’s difficult to get specific programming info from the general NBC site – although this more detailed updated schedule from NBC is far more helpful. You could also look for an online NBCSN/CNBC/USA stream somewhere like here, but your viewing experience is still subject to that same assumption even if you’re watching the NBCSN television broadcast on your computer screen.)

Jessie Diggins winning a 10 k freestyle mass start at the last World Cup race Jan. 28 in Seefeld, Austria. (Photo: Salomon/NordicFocus)

If you’re willing to wait – and particularly if you live in the Eastern time zone, and are unable or unwilling to forego sleep for two weeks to watch live – then “Skiing Vinnie” has been doing yeoman’s work for the past few years in putting up complete broadcasts of World Cup races within a few hours after they end. Find his eponymous YouTube channel here, or his website here. While Vinnie has to get creative during the Games, he has a “Plan B”. Check out his website for links to videos as we closer to the races; this is a great, hassle-free way to watch the races over breakfast the next morning, or in your office when you’re supposed to be working.

Moving farther afield, both geographically and technologically speaking, you can also use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to access online streams provided by a broadcaster in another country. Using a VPN generally lets you avoid geo-restrictions placed on content, and so, for example, access BBC videos even though you’re not in England, or NRK skiing coverage even though you’re not in Norway.

As general tech site Lifewire points out in its “how to stream the Olympics” guide, “By and large, access to VPNs is not free. Yes, you can obtain some access during free trials but eventually, you’ll need to register and pay. Those that do charge a fee, however, are usually less expensive than what it would cost you to have even a single month’s access to cable or other television providers.” Roughly $10 dollars should get you a month of access to a high-quality VPN service.

Here is one overview of VPN sites out there. Here is another. You might also be able to achieve the same thing via a simple browser extension (maybe).

The technology involved in setting up and operating a VPN is remarkably user-friendly. Once you’ve purchased a service (or found a free one whose allocated bandwidth you intend to use up during the first part of the Games before moving on to another free service’s trial offer), using it is actually quite straightforward. Once you’ve got it up and running, try setting your location to Great Britain and availing yourself of the Eurosport Player. Italy, Germany, and all of Scandinavia should also be viable options for coverage, although the commentary there may not be in English.

(Jessie Diggins recently called out Eurosport for saying that she couldn’t win a mass start sprint finish… before a race in which she won a mass start sprint finish… so if you tune into Eurosport you can stay up on all the good bulletin-board material. And of course you can always listen to the seasoned Chad Salmela of NBC Sports; he’ll probably be less likely to write off Diggins’s sprinting abilities.)

The opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics begin on Friday, Feb. 9. Notwithstanding all of the above, you should be able to watch those on any TV with a broadcast antenna. If anyone still has those anymore.


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