Monday, January 24, 2022

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics: GO OR NO GO? - I HAVE MADE A DECISION

It was 11 days ago that I last wrote a blog post, and at the time I thought I would be just days away from letting you all know whether or not I was going to make it to the Beijing Winter Olympics. At the time I was still trying to lock down flights and a hotel.

Over the last week and a half I made a lot of progress, securing a special chartered flight on JAL (flying through Tokyo to Beijing) and getting a good room at the Holiday Inn in Beijing. Both are approved by the IOC and both were extremely helpful getting everything in place.

You would think that it all ends there, but that was not the case.

It was almost a week ago that I had confirmation from the airline and hotel, and was ready to tell you all the good news. And then there was a series of events that had me second guess everything!


Close calls with Covid positive friends and family

Three weeks ago I had dinner indoors at a restaurant with good friends, only to find out a week later that they both tested positive. Four days after that dinner, I was hanging out with my buddy Evan (who second shoots for me) at my house, only to find out that he tested positive 5 days later. And no, I don't think it was me who gave it to them since I was testing negative and they had close calls themselves. 

In the past couple of weeks I have been even more cautious than in the past when it comes to Covid, choosing to wear a KN95 mask instead of a fabric mask, limiting my time at indoors facilities if I have a choice. But nonetheless the close calls continue. On Sunday I was supposed to go out to breakfast with my brother, his wife, and his boys. A half hour before leaving to meet them, I received a text from my brother scrubbing the breakfast since his oldest son woke up with a fever in the middle of the night. Later yesterday afternoon I heard that he was indeed positive for Covid. 

Word from other photographers

Photographing the Olympics is really tough, and it is always nice to know that I have good friends there who are going through the same stress and crazy deadlines that I am. Well...I have talked to more than one of these friends who is opting not to go this time around. This made me wonder if I should be doing the same thing.

Fear of getting Covid in China

I have been really lucky and avoided getting Covid to this point (at least that I know of). The thought of testing positive in Beijing and being quarantined in a small room for a week scares me. This means that there will be a level of stress each day, as I get tested and wait for those results. Enough said on this one!

The testing process

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have real issues with "medical procedures" of any kind. Even though my father was a doctor, I really don't like needles or foreign things being shoved deep into my nose. In order for us to go into China, we have to do numerous tests where they do the "deep nose test". I have been happy to avoid this during the entire pandemic and really wanted to keep it that way. 

My first grandchild is due to be born during the Olympics

This is a tough one. My son and his wife are expecting soon, with a due date around Feb 10th. Even though I would not be allowed at the hospital due to Covid protocol, it will be hard to be half way around the world when this big day happens. 

Shooting the day before I leave

Since I ended up having to rebook all my flights and I am leaving a day earlier than originally planned, I am now shooting an event all day and night before I leave the next morning for the Olympics. I will be wearing my N95 mask the whole time and eating outdoors away from everyone! But this also means that I need to turn the cull through all those images and build a gallery late that night, before leaving. I prefer not to make my client wait a month for their proofs.

Losing sleep

There are more reasons than all of these, but suffice it say that I have been losing sleep over this for the last 10 days. I am not saying this in a figurative way. I have literally been waking up around 3am every night and lay awake for at least an hour worrying before getting back to sleep. Melatonin has been my best friend.


I created a pro / con list and have been looking at it daily. And yes, there are a ton of reasons to go to the Olympics too. Some of those are:

* It is always an amazing experience (which I love sharing with all of you)

* I have commitments to the team and don't want to let them down

* My first Olympics was the Summer Olympics in Beijing and it would be cool to be there again, in the same buildings which have been repurposed for the Winter Olympics.

* I have been working on this for more than a year and know that I will regret not going. FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a real thing!

After weighing all the options, and having a couple of discussions with my contact at the team, I have made the decision to go. I am tired of going back and forth and not knowing what to do. I called my contact at Japan Airlines and made final payment about 2 hours ago. I can tell you that just 3 days ago I was working on a blog post explaining to you all why I was NOT going to make the trip. This has been a really tough decision!

There are still some hurdles to overcome. I need to stay away from the Covid virus and I need to get my approved Covid tests prior to flying out (yuck!). I also need to start the long process of packing cameras, lenses and cold weather clothing.

If all goes well, I will be shooting the opening ceremony from the Birds Nest in 10 days. 

Not to sound like a broken record...but... Stay tuned. In this crazy world, things could change at any time.


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Stefan Baeurle said...

This is clearly not an easy decision. I wish you all the best, health, and good luck for your trip to the Olympics. And I'm looking forward to tons of stunning photos.

GoTeam USA said...

May your daughter deliver safely and early enough for you to still be here; may you find a trusted photog friend to shoot the event the day before you have to leave; and may you stay safe and virus free in China!!!! Best wishes!

kaye said...

Wishing you good health and safe travels! I can’t wait for your amazing images!

kaye said...

Wishing you good health and safe travels! I can’t wait for your amazing images!

Andrew McLean Photography said...

All the best Jeff, you have made a brave decision. The biggest fear that I would have would be catching Covid in China. Stay safe, Im sure you will take some magical images.

Uncle Bill said...

[From] Benjamin Franklin’s Rule for Making Decisions

When Charles Darwin set out to marry, he employed a technique pioneered half a century earlier by Ben Franklin. Despite his importance, the prolific Franklin often gave his practical wisdom to many of those who asked.

In the summer of 1772, Franklin received a letter from his friend, the English scientist, Joseph Priestley. Priestley was torn between relinquishing his position as the minister of the fame Unitarian church Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds and accepting a lucrative position as the general assistant to the Earl of Shelburne.

Like many of us faced with such a choice, Priestley was torn and turned to a friend for advice. Rather than simply offering advice on this particular choice, Franklin taught him something much more valuable: how to choose. By giving Priestley the simple mathematics of decision making, Franklin created what is now known as the pros and cons framework.

Franklin writes:

In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how.

When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.

To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.

And tho’ the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra.
Priestley accepted the position and science never looked back.

JCusack said...

I can’t imagine how many tough late night back and fourths you have had . I have been thinking about what you would decide and knew a big part was the teams , especially the girls . You have been with them through good times and tough times and knew you would want to be there for them . Don’t think there is anyone with so many reasons to go and to not go . I wish you all the best . Know with this trip nothing is set till the first puck is dropped and you are in your spot . Good luck , stay healthy and try to have some enjoyable moments. Hope you stay well , are able to blog , your teams do well . Sending all the best my friend. Will watch all your games . From the tiniest state in the USA . 🇺🇸🇺🇸

Genise Hood-Plessas said...

I wish you the best on your trip and do hope you are able to remain covid free throughout. What a tough decision! Thanks for taking us along on the journey.

dobeall said...

Wishing the best on your adventures, and that you avoid Covid! Looking forward to seeing the photographs.

Unknown said...

Good luck and have fun.....stay safe!!!

Unknown said...

Well that had to be a hard decision, as indicated! Wishing you the best and your family as well. Since you chose to go, we will all be looking forward to great photo story!

Henry Johnson said...

Good luck! Thanks for sharing the details of a very difficult decision. You have a lot of people rooting for you. I always look forward to your blog posts. Thank you!