Sunday, January 30, 2022:
✈ After a long day of travel and an even longer roll of red tape to get here, I’ve arrived in China and things are going smoothly! I’m battling through some internet and connectivity issues, but otherwise things are good and all of my COVID tests, including the one at the Beijing airport (which tickled my brain) have come back negative. Testing positive has been and continues to be my biggest concern. The airport test in particular has been very sensitive and delivering positives to people who tested negative in the states, so I was very happy to see this result.
Our NBC charter flight left LAX Saturday afternoon and with the +16 hour time difference we arrived Sunday night just shy of midnight. Our flight was a mixture of NBC folks with a few Team USA figure skaters on board too (I posted on Instagram about how a couple of them sat behind me). They were very thorough in using sanitizing wipes to clean everything around them. They’ve made it this far and it would be heart breaking to pick up something at the 11th hour of a 4 year journey. I had to laugh at one point on my way to the lavatory when I saw one of them doing leg squats in the area where flight attendants make coffee. The Delta crew delivered incredible service and I was able to sneak in about three hours of sleep on the first 6,000 mile leg to Seoul, Korea which took about 13 ½ hours.
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Our plane landed for 90 minutes on the tarmac in Seoul for a crew change, but all of us passengers stayed on board. The final leg from Seoul to Beijing took just under two hours. The first people I saw exiting the plane in Beijing was a quartet of airport workers in hazmat suits waiting to get onto our plane to clean it. We entered through a specific part of the airport set aside for incoming Olympic travelers, which is keeping with the local organizing committee’s plans to keep all foreigners for these games in a closed loop Olympic bubble. We didn’t see any other passengers from any other planes and every single airport worker we ran into wore a hazmat suit. So … my colleagues and people in hazmat suits, that was it.
We made our way through a maze of immigration, COVID testing, credentialing and customs check points. Minus the COVID testing, this is routine for every Olympics and it usually takes a long time to get through the different stops. Tokyo took a long time, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and efficiently things went here. I grabbed my three pieces of checked luggage, including camera gear, boxes of protein bars, and Peet’s coffee, and made my way to the buses outside. WOW it’s cold here … but I didn’t mess with trying to pull out one of my warm jackets from the checked bags, just got onto the bus.
I arrived at my hotel sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. Monday (again local time) and checked in with the front desk. I had to go straight to my room and stay here until the airport COVID test results were processed. I set my alarm for 7 a.m. which served the dual purpose of conquering jet lag and watching the NFC Championship game. I’m from the Bay Area and a life long 49ers fan, so finding a way to watch this game was my 2nd biggest concern after testing negative! Just before kickoff, my airport test result came back negative. Huge sigh of relief! Amazingly the game was also being broadcast on one of the hotel’s cable channels. This was all going about as well as I could’ve imagined … until the Rams won.