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YouTube Might Be the Best Place to Watch the Olympics

Photo: An Lingjun/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

Yes, leave it to Gen Z to recommend watching the 2021 Tokyo Olympics not on NBC, or even on Peacock — but on YouTube. Whether you’re on your computer all day or simply cannot be bothered to figure out cable television — or in my case, a strong both — finding reliably updated sources can be a struggle for international sporting events like the Olympics.

It wasn’t always this hard. Growing up, NBC Sports would stay on the living-room TV every evening of the Olympics, with various family members gathering as different events came on during prime time. But now, with NBC’s strict control over licensing, the pandemic isn’t the only reason people aren’t tuning in to the Olympics. In order to watch online, only select events are available on Peacock, either free with ads or for $4.99 a month. It’s a choice, especially considering NBC plans on shuttering its NBC Sports cable channel and moving that content to Peacock by the end of this year. With no easy way to watch the Olympics online, navigating the packed schedule of events is more intimidating than the Haka.

So, this year, experience the Tokyo 2021 Olympics virtually, on the NBC Sports YouTube channel, like everyone should have in the first place.

Getting into the Olympics doesn’t require staying up until three in the morning or avoiding spoilers until it airs in your time. While many events aren’t live on television, the NBC Sports YouTube channel updates throughout the day, showcasing the best moments, top athletes, and strongest countries just hours after they perform in Tokyo. (For major athletes, they go up even sooner.) Most videos are super-cuts of the event or team, giving you a clean overview of a tense category and a front-row seat to domination. In single-athlete sports like gymnastics, vidoes are edited together so you watch all of their attempts at once, instead of having to find several tiny clips or scan through the entire competition. That way, you have all the context for a big win or a dramatic loss.

But while everybody wants to see Katie Ledecky swim and Tom Daley dive, NBC Sports knows you’re not just in it for the popular sports. We want Olympic story lines worthy of all the effort and time these athletes have put into it. And, unlike us proud Olympic bandwagon fans, NBC Sports has been following these tales since the road to Tokyo began and through all its detours. So when Jordan Chiles took over for Simone Biles on uneven bars and beam for the gymnastic team final, its YouTube page already had videos following her rise from the U.S. championships to Olympic trials to her stunning performance in Tokyo. It’s way too easy to become a superfan.

That includes international legends. When breaking news reverberates across timelines and time zones — like when Japanese male gymnast Kohei Uchimura fell off the horizontal bars on July 24 and live tweets of the heartbreaking scene filled the Twitter moment — clips can be challenging to find. Over on the NBC Sports channel, his routine, which he completed as a courtesy, was already uploaded, including commentary from analysts that know what they’re looking at.

Speaking of: The commentary must be commented on. All the Olympics clips come with live commentary from experts in the sports, many of them former Olympians themselves, so there’s no confusion how historic it is when two 13-year-olds, Momiji Nishiya from Japan and Rayssa Leal of Brazil, win gold and silver in street skateboarding. The commentators themselves are more than often left speechless, watching South Korea score back-to-back perfect tens in archery or seeing Suni Lee, the first Hmong American Olympian, perform her highly difficult uneven-bars routine. With no crowd at this year’s event, it’s just comforting to know these feats of athleticism are blowing other peoples’s minds in real time.

Still want that sports-highlight feel? I personally don’t know what that desire feels like, but I do have a solution for you. Each day, the channel uploads “Best Of” compilations, a montage of every showstopping moment from the day, from the intense crashes in mountain biking to weight lifter Hidilyn Diaz winning the first-ever gold medal for the Philippines. Never more than ten minutes, it keeps you up-to-date and informed across finals, celebrating every historic moment along the way. Similarly, Peacock’s TikTok rounds out Olympic TikTok (testing out the cardboard beds should be its own event by now) with scenes from the competition.

Sorry if you thought the Summer Games would inspire you to get off your phone. The Olympics as we know them were created on TV, but this year, all the history-making can be found online.

YouTube Might Be the Best Place to Watch the Olympics