Tuesday, Feb. 15th:
💼 The late morning bus was packed today from the hotel to the International Broadcast Center (IBC). As I stood shoulder to shoulder with my fellow bubble companions and looked around, I saw more than a few people closing their eyes. The Olympic marathon, now in it’s final week, is starting to drain the batteries a little faster than the previous weeks. Despite the busy bus, the IBC feels a little emptier as some people have packed up and gone home.
For those of us in for the duration, the back stretch of the games are definitely here. On some fronts things are easier. I’ve figured out the busses and I know exactly how long it takes to get from point A to point B allowing me to maximize my time. The morning throat swabs don’t make me gag anymore, although I think it’s the testers who’ve lightened up, and I know which bathroom sink in our nearest IBC bathroom always has hot water. Familiarity is nice. I’m using less brain power for ordinary tasks. The trade-off however, means the days are starting to feel a bit “groundhogish.”
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Thankfully, between live shots for our 11 p.m. newscast and 4:30 a.m. newscast (late afternoon here), I had the chance to do something new. I ran over to long track speed skating for the team pursuit finals.
The National Speed Skating Oval, also called the “Ice Ribbon” for its design, is the only new venue built along Beijing’s Olympic green. It’s actually built on the grounds where the 2008 Olympics archery and field hockey stadiums once sat.
I arrived with about 15 minutes to spare until the women’s two final races got underway. The ice track is gigantic.
Chinese fans sat in the stands on one side and everyone in the bubble (media, volunteers, athletes, coaches, etc.) sat on the other side. The robotic cameras, including one that raced around the outside edge and another that soared above with cables, were fascinating to watch. They warmed up just like the skaters did. In the women’s gold medal race, Japanese skater Nana Takagi fell, and then slid across the ice crashing into the padded wall on the final lap. It gave Canada the win in what would’ve been a close finish. Takagi got up and eventually crossed the finish line where her two teammates waited, but even from afar, you could see and feel her devastation.
It’s interesting to watch the Olympics without close up cameras and announcers. It’s kind of like the difference between seeing a bear in the wild versus watching one in a National Geographic documentary. You are less informed about what’s happening, but you feel like you’re part of the story.
Tonight is going to be a cold one on the live platform, the coldest yet according to the forecast. I have hand warmers and feet warmers and my thickest long underwear, but I know it won’t be enough. I feel a bit like Jon Snow preparing for the White Walkers in Game Of Thrones. Winter is coming. I’ll let you know how it goes.
NBC 7's Steven Luke is in Beijing, China to bring us the latest updates from the 2022 Winter Olympics. Click here to follow his journey, day-by-day