Journey to the armored bubble of the Winter Games

Armored against the coronavirus. This is how they will celebrate
Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
, which begin this Friday under a huge bubble to prevent the spread of Covid-19. After those in Tokyo last summer, they are the second Games to take place during the pandemic, which precisely broke out two years ago in China, when the city of Wuhan was closed. But the situation has changed a lot since then and now it is the Chinese authorities who they fear that the coronavirus will enter their territory from abroad, where the super contagious and milder Omicron variant roams freely throughout Europe and America.

protected from the coronavirus by imposing strong restrictions that will also be in force at these Games. Just like in Tokyo, there will be no public in the competitions, except small groups of guests, and its participants will also move within a closed circuit. But much more guarded and impermeable than the Japanese, from which one could leave without problem at any time. As in Tokyo, ABC is also inside this Olympic bubble, which actually starts with the trip to Beijing.

Although international airlines do not arrive in the Chinese capital, especially protected for housing the top leadership of the regime, from January to March the landing of charter flights for those accredited in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. But, yes, under very strict security measures such as those experienced by this correspondent on his flight from Paris, one of the few authorized origins along with Frankfurt, Zurich, Hong Kong, Singapore or Tokyo.

Operated by Air China at a price of 1,500 euros only one way, this flight was the beginning of the Olympic bubble. To take it, you had to present two negative tests for the coronavirus in the previous 96 and 72 hours, as well as one gymkhana of official documents and computer applications, in order to obtain China’s health and customs QR codes. Realizing that we were already in the bubble, the stewardesses were equipped with the spooky special protective suits that have become the official uniform of the pandemic. An impressive welcome that they did not want us to photograph, perhaps because it is so prophylactic that it does not go too well with the welcoming spirit that is expected of the Olympic Games.

Curiously, and although more than half the plane was empty, they concentrated all the passengers instead of dispersing us, leaving only one seat free in between and warning us that we could not change seats so as not to alter the tracking if any positive appeared in the flight. No food service to avoid risks, they only delivered to us a couple of bags with buns, dry beef, a sausage, an orange, some crackers, nuts and milk. Such an unappetizing menu seemed more like a subtle deterrent technique so that we would not take off our masks during the ten-hour flight. Meanwhile, he was trying to find the position to fall asleep with music by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, with the only interruption being taking his temperature mid-ride.

Arriving at Terminal 3 of the Beijing airport, more workers dressed in white suits were waiting for us. After registering our passport with a QR code, they tested us for the coronavirus, as is usual when landing in China, and then validated the Olympic credential. So that travelers from abroad do not spread Covid if we come infected, a wing of Terminal 3 has been converted into customs. An army of workers in PPE suits swarms through its corridors, lined with the drawings of the Olympic mascots. Next to their name written in Chinese characters, some carry the hammer and sickle to indicate that they are members of the Communist Party and others have painted congratulations for the Lunar New Year, which began yesterday under the sign of the tiger.

Once all the controls had been passed, we collected the luggage, already disinfected, and we headed on one of the organization’s buses to Zhangjiakou. 180 kilometers from Beijing, which a high-speed train travels in just one hour, this snowy mountain town hosts the main ski and snowboard events, where Queralt Castellet and Lucas Eguibar have medal options for Spain.

After a long road trip, where we see the streets of the outskirts of Beijing deserted for the lunar new year, we ascend the mountain and leave behind the Yangqing headquarters, which will host alpine skiing and sliding events (bosleigh, luge and skeleton). ). At the two stops to go to the bathroom, Cleaners in protective overalls disinfect urinals after using them the “laowai” (“old people from outside”), the Mandarin translation of our “guiri” in Spanish. At sunset, and with the thermometer showing a maximum of 11 below zero and twice as low, we checked into the Prince Hotel in Zhangjiakou. We do it, again, before receptionists dressed in special suits and protective visors.

With nine newly built buildings, the hotel is so large that you can walk freely in its spacious garden, but not go outside. First, we must wait in our room, spacious but spartan, for the result of the PCR test to be communicated to us. If we were not notified within eight hours, as it was at the close of this edition, it was because the result was negative and we could now freely go out today to the armored Olympic bubble.

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