The Olympics start today! Seriously, there are actual sporting contests happening all afternoon, even though the Opening Ceremony isn't for two days. So now is your time to strategize your own game plan for watch the Summer of London.
Sports fans will be sitting pretty this year as 2012 will be the first Olympics where every event will be available to watch somewhere, as it happens. If it's not on one of NBC's many networks, it will be streaming live on NBC's Olympics website. For free, even! There's only one catch: You have to already be paying for a cable TV package that includes those networks.
Fortunately, most people have that. Unfortunately, they are stuck at work during the day or just aren't always near a TV when something is happening. Which will be the case for almost all of the events this year, at least on week days. There's a five-hour time difference between New York and London (that's eight hours for our friends on the West Coast), which means almost all Olympic events will take place during normal business hours in the U.S. On most days competitions will get underway around 4:00 a.m. Eastern and wrap up around 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening.
Thankfully, the modern era of telecommunications keeps us from living in the dark, painfully unaware of what's going on overseas. Here's what you need:
TV: If you can watch TV during the day, then great! Here the are networks that will have Olympic programming in the U.S.: NBC (regular local stations), NBC Sports Network (formerly known as Versus), MSNBC, CNBC, and Bravo. There's also Spanish-language programming on Telemundo and two special channels set aside for basketball and soccer, but you'll have to check your cable listings to see if you have them. They will cover a lot (but not all) of the live events and make for easy channel surfing.
A computer: For everything else, you have to go online. NBCOlympics.com will host all the streaming content and also has TV broadcast schedules to help you find the right channel for the sport you want. We also recommend London2012.com, as their calendar of events is quite useful for figuring out when your favorite event is happening. Just watch out for the time difference.
A smartphone: Say you have online access, but can't watch videos at work? Or pesky IT agents have blocked the NBC site in the name of productivity? Well, if you still need up-to-the-minute updates, there are other ways to follow along. Twitter will be going crazy, as you might assume. (Here's a good list of journalists on the scene.) There are scoreboard apps to give you results. And any reasonably with it sports website (ESPN.com; FoxSports.com; CBSSports.com) will have constantly updated results.
Or you can just read our daily live blog, which be constantly updated throughout the day with all the latest news and results!
And even if you miss out live, the best stuff will always be replayed during primetime on NBC's mothership station. Also: most of the streaming coverage will also be archived online, to watch later at your convenience. If you study the TV schedule properly, you can even rely on your trusty DVR for the biggest moments.
But what if you don't want to follow along? Many people simply can't watch during the day — they are called "workers" — or simply prefer to watch NBC's pre-packaged primetime show, which isn't live, but gives you the whole day's action in a tidy three hours. (That's cool too! Not everyone has to be obsessed with sports.) But how to avoid to learning about the results before you get a chance to sit down and watch?
It's tricky, but possible! For starters, stay away from Twitter and Facebook. You may think you can filter your way past people shouting out medal counts, but it's not going to happen. Even people you don't suspect to be sports nuts will probably ruin that big event for you. If you text with certain people a lot during the day, make sure they're aware of your "no spoilers" policy. You can watch TV, but don't turn on ESPN, CNN, or any other channel that has a news crawl. Avoid the local evening news or at least turn it off after the top stories and weather. Radio in the car is probably a bad idea too. Stick to your iPod, Pandora, or Spotify for entertainment. Maybe even start reading newspapers and books again.
It's going to be very lonely avoiding other more informed people for the next two weeks, but that's the price you pay for not ruining the drama and majesty of human competition. Good luck out there!