San Diego to Beijing

NBC 7 Anchor Steven Luke in Beijing: Friends with Connections, Coughs and an Interview with Curler Chris Plys

NBC 7's Steven Luke is in China covering the 2022 Winter Olympics from Jan. 4th to the 20th.

NBC 7 anchor Steven Luke snaps a selfie inside the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "ice cube," at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.
Steven Luke

Thursday, Feb. 3rd:

🎥 I’m trying to think of the best way to describe the process of getting interviews and shooting video here at the Winter Olympics and I keep picturing a track sprinter in thick, knee-deep mud. Virtually anything worth doing here requires extra permission to get extra access to places you’ve never been on bus routes you’ve never explored. While the extra difficulty isn’t awesome for productivity, there is a sense of great satisfaction in accomplishing small tasks. This morning was a classic example. I wanted to get inside the “Ice Cube,” which is the nickname for the curling venue here at the Olympic Park. This arena is actually the “National Aquatics Center” where Michael Phelps dominated the 2008 Summer Olympics with a record eight gold medals. Wanting to put a fun story together connecting the curlers and the world’s greatest Olympian seems like a pretty simple idea, but pulling it off requires some running through thick, deep mud.

Spectators watch competitors inside the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "ice cube," at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.
Steven Luke
Spectators watch competitors inside the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "ice cube," at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.

Just the request alone filters up the chain of NBC and into the realm of OBS (The Olympic Broadcasting Services) touching several gate keepers along the way. My request got approved last night for a spot in the “mixed zone,” which is where Olympians do interviews immediately after their competition. All I want to do is get a couple of “sound bites” from curlers about competing in the same arena as Phelps, which will take less than five minutes. But the various bus rides, connections, and waiting for the match to end took about three and a half hours. In case it sounds like I’m complaining … not in the least, because again, the puzzle of accomplishing simple tasks is a lot of fun. Plus, after making friends with one of the people who controls the limited number of press spectator seats, I was able to see one of the first Olympic events: mixed doubles curling.

Empty chairs are seen in between a handful of spectators at the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.
Steven Luke
Empty chairs are seen in between a handful of spectators at the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.


I don’t know much about curling, other than it reminds me of shuffle board in a bar, so I googled the rules while I watched the match. The USA versus Italy match was one of four matches taking place simultaneously next to each other. Along with the OBS tech crews broadcasting the competition, the arena was also filled with a few volunteers and other members of accredited media. The “Ice Cube” also had about a 100 or so socially-distanced Chinese spectators. I sat in a seat behind a Czech radio broadcaster who kept coughing up a storm. Even though he had a mask on, I moved down a few more seats. Normally back in the states I wouldn’t give it much thought to it, but we’re all on COVID high alert here and it just made me feel better to move!

Spectators watch competitors inside the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "ice cube," at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.
Steven Luke
Spectators watch competitors inside the Curling Arena at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "ice cube," at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2022.

After the match (the USA team lost to Italy 8-4) I went down to my interview spot and waited for Chris Plys and Vicky Persinger to walk by for an interview. We talked about being the first Team USA Olympians to compete in Beijing and how the Phelps connection to the venue makes it extra special. Chris Plys had a great quote saying “I’d take an 1/8th of his golds from this arena.” I’m not sure if he’ll get a gold, but his soundbite was golden and I’ll use it for the story when it airs.

P.S. We started our cycle of live shots today for NBC7 late news at 11 p.m. and NBC7 News Today from 4:30 – 7 a.m. It’s on the 4th level of a platform next to the “Bird’s Nest” in the Olympic Park and the wind is whipping up there! It’s going to be a cold few weeks.

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