✈ You know the walls of the Olympic bubble are closing in on everyone when Team USA curlers show up at your hotel lobby bar to hang out. They finished their competition and there is no alcohol in the athletes’ village, so they looked for the best place to celebrate the end of their trip to Beijing and ended up here. They seem like a lot of fun and I think they liked our hotel as they came back the next night for dinner and drinks.
I spent the weekend packing while doing some final reporting for NBC 7. I went upstairs from the International Broadcast Center (IBC) to the gift shop to see if he there were last minute things I could pick up for the folks back home, but the line was longer than it has been for all of the winter games.
People are waiting six hours straight now for this stuffed panda mascot and it doesn’t look like the excitement has died down by the time I leave.
Giant cargo crates now line the hallways of the IBC and everything from monitors to medication to lights are loaded for a trip home. I have a crate with materials that will be shipped by sea. When I asked when it should arrive in the US, I was told “probably this summer”.
The team I’m on here at the Olympics, which includes teams from several major TV news markets across the United States, is the smallest group of the seven Olympics I’ve covered. We got to know each other quite well.
I asked everyone to wear their NBC Beijing vests for a “team photo” and we were cleared to enter the main set of the NBC Sports Olympics where Mike Tirico made his first broadcasts at the start games. A member of the studio team said he was glad it was used, even if it was just for a quick shot. It was a pleasure to work alongside great talent and everyone is very friendly and down to earth.
We have some final COVID tests and paperwork to do to leave China and return to the United States, but that has nothing to do with the logistical mountain we climbed to enter the country last month. A bus will pick me up around 4am Tuesday (that’s around noon Monday in San Diego) and I’ll start the journey home. I went into these games with such a low bar and all the worries of what would happen if I tested positive for COVID. A lot of people who were supposed to come and report on these games didn’t. I understood their reasoning then, but knowing what I know now, I’m glad I made the trip.
In the end, it was a journey defined by barriers, the ones we overcame to get here, the fences that contained us, and even a “big one” that I never got to see. There were barriers broken by athletes like Erin Jackson and others that felt more like ceilings for greats like Shaun White. Overall, I enjoyed my stay in this bubble, but the barrier has run its course. Now is the time to go out with a plane ticket back home.
NBC 7’s Steven Luke is in Beijing, China to bring us the latest updates from the 2022 Winter Olympics. Click here to follow his day-by-day journey