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London Olympics viewing, listening guide

The starting grid of the 2012 London Olympics is within sight, so it’s time to begin planning one’s viewing, eating and sleeping schedule, and CNET Australia‘s here to help.

The games officially kick off with the opening ceremony at 6am AEST on Saturday, 28 July. Competitive events will start at around 6pm AEST that night, although a number of football pool matches are scheduled for 25 July and onwards.

Naturally, we’ll update this guide when more information becomes available.

Free-to-air TV

With the Olympics on the anti-siphoning list, free-to-air television coverage is pretty much guaranteed. For the XXX Olympiad, the Nine Network and its regional affiliates (NBN, WIN and Imparja) have sole free-to-air rights, and exclusive coverage of both the opening and closing ceremonies.

The network is promising 14.5 hours of live coverage on its primary analog and digital channels starting at 6.30pm every night, and flowing through to around 9am the next morning. A highlights package will then air from 9am to 11am, and will be repeated at 4pm that afternoon.

Given Australian television’s poor recent record on HD broadcasts, it’s heartening to learn that Nine’s Olympics coverage will be simulcast in HD on Gem. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the Gem stream will be in native HD, not up-scaled.

The Federal Government has also approved an application by Nine to broadcast the Olympics on a dedicated 3D channel. The channel will only be available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast — channel numbers have yet to be confirmed, and viewers may have to rescan to access the 3D channel.

Overseas viewers will be able to see the men’s 100m final live in 3D, as well as a daily highlights package, including both the opening and closing ceremonies. In Australia, though, the 3D experience will consist entirely of highlights that air on the dedicated 3D channel from 11am to 4pm.

Unlike the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where certain matches were broadcasted live in 3D, there’s no chance of tuning into an alternative commentary stream — unless, of course, you pay for Foxtel.

Pay TV

For the two previous Olympics (Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004), the Seven Network partnered with SBS to provide coverage. Under this arrangement, Seven provided the usual free-to-air Olympics broadcast — live coverage of popular events, chopping and changing between events and highlights as necessary — while SBS covered a select range of long-form sports, such as football and cycling, in their entirety.

This time around, there’s no secondary free-to-air channel; instead, Nine’s partner is Foxtel, which is planning to provide comprehensive coverage of the Olympics via eight dedicated channels. Each channel will be available in both SD and HD formats, although you’ll need to have a Foxtel HD subscription to see the latter.

In a fit of corporate benevolence, the suite of Olympics channels is free for anyone with access to Foxtel’s selection of sport channels. As detailed in the table below, the eight London Olympics channels are dedicated to particular range of sports, although Foxtel does caution that certain events may appear on other channels if there are delays or scheduling conflicts.

London 1 Swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, water polo
London 2 Cycling (track, BMX, mountain bike, road)
London 3 Gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic, trampoline)
London 4 Athletics (track)
London 5 Athletics (field)
London 6 Equestrian (jumping, eventing, dressage), fencing, table tennis
London 7 Rowing, canoeing (sprint, slalom)
London 8 Beach volleyball, sailing, football, hockey, weightlifting

Foxtel is promising to show every gold-medal event live, with coverage beginning on 25 July AEST, as there are 14 football pool matches scheduled prior to the opening ceremony.


Foxtel is also making all eight Olympic channels available via its IPTV services for a one-off $50 fee. You need to pay $19.50 for a one-month basic package on either the Xbox 360 or a Samsung Smart TV and then add a one-off $50 payment for access to the Olympic channels.

The Xbox 360 version gives access to the channels as a set of standard channel options. The Samsung Smart TV version will let you view all eight channels at once, or watch one feed side-by-side with a view of the medal tally board.


If you’re in the car or working the late shift, watching the TV mightn’t be entirely advisable. Depending on your tastes and where you live, you can choose between either the ABC’s coverage or a commercial broadcaster’s.

For fans of Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and company, 2GB in Sydney owns the commercial radio rights to the London Olympics. This coverage will be shared with Fairfax radio stations outside of Sydney, including Melbourne’s 3AW, Brisbane’s 4BC and 6PR in Perth. This broadcast will also be heard on 60 stations throughout regional Australia.

If the commercial Olympics broadcast isn’t to your fancy or available in your area, there’s always the ABC. The national broadcaster will air live coverage every day, beginning at 5.30pm AEST on its analog local radio network, as well as on a dedicated digital radio station, ABC Games.

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