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Expats search for home-country Olympics

Saturday - 8/4/2012, 11:25am  ET

Associated Press

(AP) - From the Irish pubs of Stockholm to bustling Koreatown in Los Angeles, expat Olympic fans around the world are following _ or trying to follow _ their favorite back-home athletes, an often lonely and difficult pursuit in our otherwise connected world.

"Watching the Olympics from here is weird for me," said Beto Capon, a 25-year-old call center worker from Mexico City who's been living in Israel for four years.

At Mike's Place, a popular hangout in downtown Jerusalem where the American, British and Canadian flags fly alongside that of Israel, Capon took in women's swimming. He still roots for Mexico when the Olympics roll around.

"Here I don't have fans to share the experience with," he said.

Steve McCready, 52, was jollier at Dubliner's in central Stockholm for the boxing match between Ireland and Germany.

Fifteen years in Sweden, the construction worker is soaking up six to seven hours a day of the London Games thanks to the pub's satellite TV and the company of fellow Irishmen. Irish badminton? He was watching.

"Of course you want to follow your home country. If Ireland is competing you want to see them, especially if they do well," McCready said Thursday.

But he's not bothered by the Olympic-viewing eccentricities of his adopted Sweden.

"You have to accept that in any country you're living in, they will concentrate on their own teams and favorite sports," he said. "Take handball, for example. The Swedes love it, so there's going to be a lot of that."

Asa Ibrahim, a spokeswoman for the municipality of Sodertalje, said in her area's large Iraqi and Somali immigrant neighborhoods people prefer to watch Olympic events at home _ with friends.

"There are places here where just about every balcony has one or two satellite dishes. They do that to get their home country's channels, but then they also invite each other over to watch things together," Ibrahim said. "People here prefer to go to each other's houses."

Aside from pubs and satellite dishes, some sports fans far from their homelands are resorting to video online, thanks to healthy bandwidth and programs like the Expat Shield, which helps users hide their IP addresses to bypass restrictions on who has legal permission to show the games _ and where.

James Bosworth, an American blogger living in Managua, Nicaragua, could use some help.

He can watch the games on his local Claro cable TV provider and even some NBC programming, but he can't review the day's video online at his leisure.

"I go to NBC's page, I'm blocked. I go to BBC, I'm blocked. I go to CCTV, I'm blocked," he said. "And when Claro TV's cable went down for four days I was left without anything."

At the It's Boba Time cafe in Los Angeles, immigrants and college students sucked tapioca balls and milk tea through fat straws Wednesday, some looking for the Olympics the old-fashioned way, thumbing through Korean-language newspapers with color photos of judo and fencing stars on their front pages.

Staring intently at his laptop, 49-year-old Joon Ha of Sherman Oaks, Calif., watched the finals of sports South Korea is competitive in _ judo, fencing, shooting, archery _ via downloads from Korean television websites.

NBC's coverage out of London hasn't included many Korean athletes, but that doesn't upset him.

"The United States is a very big country, and it's understandable that there are so many games they compete in that having the games of this one country on television will occupy all the programming," he said.

That's a sore subject with British expats who were outraged when the BBC blocked non-UK users from accessing Web streams of some popular radio programs due to International Olympic Committee rights demands.

After a deluge of complaints, the BBC announced that it had negotiated with the IOC to allow non-UK users access to all but a few Web streams. The reasoning: Although the shows do feature Olympic content, it isn't broadcast live and makes up a minority of programming.

Ironically, if you're in a country where the IOC didn't sell exclusive rights to broadcast the games, you stand a better chance of being able to watch the events you're interested in than if you're in countries like France, Japan or Mexico where it did. That's because the IOC is providing its own free YouTube live stream of the games in 64 nations across Asia and Africa.

In Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Zambia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, fans can watch 10 live streams as well as highlights, provided they can access highspeed Internet.

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