Editor’s Note: George Washington University sports management professor Lisa Delpy Neirotti is on the ground in Beijing for SportsTravel. A veteran of the Olympic Games, this will be her 21st consecutive Games in various capacities. Here is her inside look at her journey to Beijing. Delpy will be filing stories for SportsTravel throughout the Games.
Getting to the Olympic Games in normal times can be a daunting challenge, but faced with the restrictions being implemented for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, it is the most challenging it has ever been.
After 28 hours in flight and transit — plus three hours from touchdown in Beijing to my hotel — it’s been quite the journey to these Games. There were no approved direct flights to China from North America so all U.S. media and other accredited attendees had a limited number of flight options, all with significant layovers or up to three stops. Team USA chartered flights for the athletes from Los Angeles as part of its partnership with Delta. My journey had me travel on Turkish Airlines from Washington, D.C., to Istanbul for a 10-hour layover, then on to Beijing.
Once at the Beijing airport (which was not the terminal typically used for arrivals) you were greeted by people in hazmat suits and moved through immigration. You were also subjected to two COVID tests (nasal and throat). The administration of COVID tests seemed especially thorough with the swabs reaching far beyond what I have experienced for any test I’ve taken in the United State. (If you want details — they pushed the swab beyond the tonsils and all the way through the nasal cavity.)
After this we passed to the accreditation area where credentials were activated. From here, we were assigned bus transportation. After about 30 minutes, we all moved to the luggage area where the bags were nicely arranged by team and sport equipment (for example, skis were placed in their own area.) And finally, we moved to our assigned busses and off to our designated hotels within the closed-loop system that all Olympic stakeholders must stay in during the Games. The flight arrivals were definitely planned so that only one plane arrived at a time and passengers went through the process as a group.
From an event management perspective, everything was well organized and flowed nicely. I feel bad, however, for those working at the airport who are completely covered from head to toe to prevent virus transmission. It does not look comfortable and it would be difficult to get to know your peers. But it was great to see how some of the volunteers showed their personality by inscribing their names and welcome wishes on the outside of their protective covering.
Once at the hotel, you are required to stay in your room until you receive a call with your COVID results. Fortunately, my result came back as “normal” and I could then fully enter the loop. From there is was off to the Opening Ceremony on a dedicated transport from my accommodation to the Bird’s Nest.