Where can I find nation agnostic coverage of the Olympics?
July 25, 2021 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I would like to follow the Olympics from the US without being subject to any jingoism or nationalism. Does anyone have a source of coverage that might fit the bill? I'm boycotting NBC and I've checked out various US based sports journalism sites without much luck. Also, I'm sorted with a VPN and BBC iplayer access, but they're going the full English breakfast. Focus on politically activist athletes would be a bonus.

Unfortunately, English is the only language I'm fluent in.
posted by ursus_comiter to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There is no nation-agnostic coverage of the Olympics, because the broadcast licensing fees for the Olympics are so high. Each nation or broadcast area pays an enormous amount to have the rights for their location. The IOC has some details.

Your best bet is to choose an English language broadcast from a smaller nation with fewer winning athletes. Be aware that when a national athlete wins, coverage will be disproportionate. I remember being in Australia for the 1998 Winter Olympics (where the Southern Hemisphere had little success up to that point), and when a skier won a medal, they were interviewing childhood friends, and family, for days. Australian summer olympics, being much more successful, aren't quit as devoted to just the winners.
posted by blob at 8:19 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Canadian coverage of the Olympics tends to trend less nationalist than that of the US/England (but it's not immune to it).
posted by nightrecordings at 8:25 PM on July 25, 2021 [7 favorites]

The streams I've watched off nbcolympics.com have had little to no nationalist announcers or focus. Don't know if that would still fall under your NBC boycott.
posted by jazon at 8:40 PM on July 25, 2021

Best answer: Try watching more obscure sports, especially ones your country's athletes don't stand a chance at winning. For example, I've been watching the CBC feeds of dressage,* and also caught some women's boxing and taekwondo.** For all of these, the CBC didn't care enough to get its own hosts, so it was just showing the international/pool feed or the BBC (I'm guessing) feed, as the announcers were all very English sounding.

The dressage announcing team (man and woman whose names I didn't catch) are great. No rah-rahing for the British rider. Smart commentary that did a really good job explaining the nuances of the judging (which dressage really needs) and comparing and contrasting the horses and riders, while pointing out the strong aspects of each.

I actually happened to catch a boxing bout featuring a Canadian, but because the announcers weren't Canadian, they weren't overplaying the "go Canada" aspect. The Canadian was expected to win (she didn't) and the announcers were really good about splitting their commentary equally about the two fighters. Ditto with the taekwando match. Exactly the same deal.

As long as it's not a big sport for the country (think hockey in winter) CBC coverage is pretty even in terms of talking about all the competitors, and that includes sports like rowing, for example, where Canadian athletes stand a strong shot at good finishes.

**For the record, I went in search of the dressage coverage online as I actually am interested in equestrian sports. The two fights were things that just happened to be on as I flipped on the TV to see what was being covered. I'm not a fan of either sport, but I'm open to watching sports I don't normally care about it they are interesting or compelling in some way. Both of these were so bad and so uninteresting that I have no desire to watch any more of either of them ever again.

*I'm also not recommending anybody watch dressage if you don't already have an interest in it, because it's likely to put you to sleep (although if you do want to try, watch the Grand Prix Freestyle portion). If you want to watch some equestrian stuff, the cross country portion of the three-day event should be easier to watch, and Olympic showjumping is always great (and very easy to follow and understand). I'm pretty sure the CBC will have its own hosts for this, but they won't overplay the Canadian angle too badly. They've got enough experience covering international show jumping, that they know how to do it.
posted by sardonyx at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Maybe give Eurosport a try. Caveat: I haven't watched their coverage myself, but it seems like they shouldn't be too country-centric (though they might be Europe-centric...) Their site has a special spotlight on the Refugee Team, which is something.
posted by trig at 9:18 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

nbcolympics.com has live streams and replays for sports, if you have a cable/satellite/YouTube TV/Fubu TV/various other service subscription. As long as you avoid the ones marked with a TV network name (like NBC Prime Time) what you're getting is not NBC coverage at all, but the raw feeds with English commentary (some don't even have commentary at all) provided by Olympic Broadcasting Services. They're just pure broadcasts of the sport, with no national rooting interest and no cutaways to human interest segments.

Pick an obscure sport you know little about and find yourself suddenly rooting for an athlete you've never heard of. It's great.
posted by zachlipton at 10:44 PM on July 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Eurosport Player has un-commentated feeds of even the stuff they've promoted to Eurosport 1 & 2 (satellite channels). My susbcription for the year renewed recently at £40.
posted by k3ninho at 11:06 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can confirm that the nbcolympics.com replays for non-US-marquee events are not too heavy on the nationalism. We had success with the cycling road race, triathlon, an entirely commentary-free version of Naomi Osaka’s first tennis match. Canoe slalom was also pretty good. Some of the commentators sound British, some have sounded Australian, and some have no commentary at all. Works best if you already know the sport or if it’s relatively straightforward; we did have some challenges watching the street skateboarding until we figured out the scoring system.

Note it needs to be replays or live events, not the “highlights”. If you want to access via nbc you would need a cable subscription or a tv streaming service; there’s a recent question here that gives lots of answers.

Since the replays and live events that do have commentary on nbcolympics are majority not US accents, I expect you may get some of the same replays by accessing feeds from other English speaking countries.
posted by nat at 1:47 AM on July 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

At least some of the NBC "replays" for sports not favored in the US (the international feeds mentioned a couple of times upthread) are also available via Peacock, their new-ish streaming service. I think you have to join up at the $5/mo tier to get access, though it'd be worth poking around in the free tier before doing so.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:33 AM on July 26, 2021

The Olympic Channel stream which is associated with NBC but def has a Pan euro flair and kind of terrible production values.
posted by sandmanwv at 9:04 AM on July 26, 2021

The CBC TV app for iOS and Apple TV has coverage of a lot of events that get no TV time, and a lot of the events are just broadcast without any commentary or very neutral coverage. I watched the women's 55 kg weightlifting competiton and the narration was excellent. The Tae Kwan Do matches are just broadcast as is, with no commentary.
posted by FungusCassetteBicker at 11:24 AM on July 29, 2021

I just read an article about how the CBC's swim announcer does an excellent job knowing interesting personal factoids about every swimmer in the world, for what it's worth:

Abbie Wood, the 22-year-old from Great Britain, was introduced moments later: “During the COVID shutdown, she told me, ‘I got bored with just doing weights and everything, so I volunteered and I joined a trash-hauling company and walked behind the truck and picked up garbage for six weeks.’”
posted by Superilla at 3:54 PM on July 30, 2021

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