Monday, February 14, 2022

Beijing Winter Olympics: The escape from solitary confinement!

For all of you who have read the recent blog posts, you know that my friend, Ian. He is the photographer who had been locked up in Beijing for testing Covid positive. 

I talked to him a couple of days ago and he was hoping to get out of the 1-star hotel where he was being quarantined. He told me some crazy stories which I thought I would share with all of you.

He told me that in the 12 days he had been holed up in this location, he had yet to be served any hot meals. Not that the food was bad mind you, just not hot. Ian said that he would keep his door open for most of the day, just to hear what was going on outside his 10x12 room. He would also communicate with others this way. This made me think of all those prison movies I have seen. He said that an American guy had just been put into the room across the hall from him, and was trying to order a hamburger and coke. He thought that he could get room service! Later when the guy received his Chinese meal, he asked if they could heat it up. Ian just chuckled and thought "that will not happen". It wasn't that the people were mean, Ian said that they were mostly kids, and that even though they had a hard time communicating, they were friendly.

Another person who tested positive and is entering the quarantine zone. Ian posted this on his Instagram page and said quoted the Eagles' Hotel California lyrics "Relax, said the night man. We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!" (Photo credit Ian MacNicol)

When I asked Ian how things were going, he told me that the place was a bit like "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest". He said that there was an Australian sports reporter who was staying down the hall from him, and the guy was going nuts after 12 days in "captivity". He was yelling down the hallway accusing the Chinese of locking him up for too long and putting Covid in his food." Ian was wondering if this guy was going to start a hunger strike from his room.

Ian was cracking me up. Knowing how much I love walking and getting my steps everyday, he was sending me his step count each day. Even though he was stuck in that crazy small room, he was managing to achieve about 10,000 steps a day. I asked him how he did that, and he said "thank goodness for my little hallway to the hotel room door." He was also doing sit ups and press ups. 

The good news is that he is now released, back to his original hotel and shooting the Olympics.

The bad news is that the challenges were still ongoing. Since he had been locked up immediately after entering China, he had yet to get his shooting sleeve (needed to photograph at every Winter Olympics). Since Ian was staying up in the mountain cluster, he had to make the 3 1/2 hour trek to the Main Press Center in Beijing, get his sleeve, and then take the buses and trains back for another 3 1/2 hours.

He said that, since nobody involved with the Olympics is allowed to walk anywhere, they are required to take the press buses. We dealt with this, in a slightly less stringent way, in Tokyo. He told me that he even had to take a bus for less than 1000 feet to get to another bus because of the 0 tolerance rules. 

The Olympic Sliding Center (where they have Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton) is almost next door to Ian's hotel. But much like we experienced in Tokyo, there are no official buses which will take people from the hotel to the venue. And they are not allowed to walk. So...(you are not going to believe this)...the only way to get to the venue is a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Beijing, and then a 3 1/2 bus ride back up the mountain! He said that some of the photographers he had talked to were getting up at 4am to make an 11am event. That is NUTS! At this rate, the press who were located in the mountains would be lucky to cover more than one sport per day. 

I am just happy that he has made it through the worst part (we sure hope) and that Ian can get back to doing what he does best, shooting awesome sports photos! I am also happy to be here at home and not dealing with that.


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OnlyInCA said...

Definitely the right decision, Jeff! After hearing all these stories it just gives me the creeps even thinking about going near China at this point with the policies they have in place! You dodged a bullet there!

Thomas Reiner said...

OMG this soiunds crazy and scarry. Make people dirve 7 hours in the bus to go a venue a few 100 meters away is nuts. Is a shame the IOC is nto doing something about it. Must be hell to work under this conditions.