What it’s like inside the Beijing Olympics

In a video diary, Washington Post reporter Les Carpenter will provide a glimpse of life inside the “closed loop.” (The Washington Post)
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In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, China has created a hard bubble at the Beijing Olympics that is known as the “closed loop.” Everyone involved in these Olympics, including athletes, journalists, volunteers and other workers, are confined to a group of hotels and event venues that make up the Winter Games. The system has allowed those coming into China to avoid the country’s 21-day quarantine.

In a video diary, Washington Post reporter Les Carpenter will provide a glimpse of life inside the “closed loop.”

This page will update throughout the Games.

Jan. 27 — Long journey to Beijing begins

Carpenter heads to the airport from his home in Maryland. To get to Beijing, Carpenter first flies to Paris, one of several hubs that were set up for those attending the Olympics.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Jan. 28 — A layover in Paris

While on a layover in Paris, Carpenter stopped to see the Eiffel Tower.

Before reaching Beijing, Les has a layover in Paris. (Video: TWP)

Jan. 29 — First of many covid tests

As soon as he arrived in Beijing, personnel dressed in hazmat suits tested Carpenter for the coronavirus. Then he quarantined at his hotel until his results came back.

For Les, his first day in Beijing meant getting tested and quarantining at his hotel until his first coronavirus results came back. (Video: TWP)

Jan. 30 — Experiencing the ‘closed loop’

Along with every journalist covering the Games, athletes and staff have to be inside Beijing’s “closed loop,” an intricate system designed to keep the virus out of China.

(Video: The Washington Post)

China’s attempt to create an ‘impenetrable’ covid bubble for the Olympics

Jan. 31 — Entering the media center

Carpenter heads to the media center, a newly built convention center that will serve as the workspace for hundreds of journalists during the Winter Games.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 4 — Covering figure skating

Those who are on-site at the Winter Games can move between cities and venues inside the “closed loop” by using designated transpiration, like these media shuttles.

Les takes the bus to go cover figure skating. Beijing’s “closed loop” system means the Olympic venues are entirely separate from the rest of the city. (Video: TWP)

Feb. 8 — Views from the media center

When Carpenter wants to unwind from the daily coverage, he heads to the top of the media center, where other reporters mingle, and looks out on the limited scenes of Beijing’s “closed loop.”

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 9 — Beijing to Zhangjiakou

Carpenter traveled to Zhangjiakou to catch American snowboarding legend Shaun White. It was an exciting day for White, who fell during his first two qualifying runs but ultimately advanced to men’s snowboard halfpipe final, and for Carpenter, who got lost as he tried to find the correct mountain. (He made it on time and saw the three-time Olympic gold medalist.)

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 10 — A Beijing Games hotel room tour

After a full day covering figure skating and Nathan Chen’s gold medal performance, Carpenter retreated to his hotel room. From there, he can see the wall that separates the Olympic bubble from Beijing’s skyline and traffic.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 11 — The ‘Shaun White Express’

Carpenter again traveled to Zhangjiakou to watch American snowboarder Shaun White, who finished fourth in what was likely his final Olympic event. White, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is retiring at 35.

(Video: TWP)

Feb. 12 — The view from the press tribune

Carpenter gives a tour of the press box, or press tribune, at the figure skating venue, where he reported on two Canadian ice dancers who brought orange spandex and sequins to the Olympics. Fellow Post Sports reporter Emily Giambalvo,also makes an appearance. She’s been reporting on the controversy surrounding Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skating star.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 13 — Snow!

It snowed in Beijing! Sunday’s heavy snowfall was the first since the Winter Olympics began. Carpenter says weather forecasts predicted a cold and dry winter in China’s capital, a city not known to get much snow.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 14 — Waiting for the bus

Covering the Olympic Games is a dream come true for most journalists. For Carpenter, who has covered many during his career, each Olympics is as exciting as his first one. But to report on events, Carpenter and his colleagues sometimes have to wait for hours at bus stops. At least, that’s how is it inside Beijing’s “closed loop.”

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 15 — In search of the Great Wall of China

China’s famous landmarks are, for the most part, outside the Olympics “closed loop.” But Carpenter decided to take a bus after colleagues told him he would be able to see the Great Wall on the ride.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 17 — The gas station outside the loop

After weeks of being inside the Olympic bubble, Carpenter wonders what is like on the other side of the wall. Every day he sees a gas station, and thinks about what people do there and how it would feel to interact with some of Beijing’s residents.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 18 — Inside the Olympic dining hall

From robot food deliveries to robot bartenders, “closed loop” dining has lots to offer. Carpenter tours the food hall where most journalists eat during their stay in Beijing.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 19 — Glimpse of the Forbidden City

The views inside the “closed loop” are limited, but Carpenter’s daily bus commute includes glimpses of the Forbidden City as well as downtown Beijing.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 20 — The Olympics’ sole gift shop

The line for scarce 2022 Winter Olympic souvenirs, especially stuffed versions of mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, is long. How long? Carpenter walked along the line of the only gift shop inside Beijing’s “closed loop.”

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 21 — The Post’s office inside the Olympic bubble

The Washington Post’s coverage of the Winter Games involved dozens of journalists — reporters, columnists, editors, technicians and more. Carpenter toured the office where they worked from Beijing.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Feb. 22 — Adieu!

After 25 days of Olympic coverage, Carpenter said goodbye to the “closed loop” and Beijing. He reported on the conditions of quarantine hotels in the bubble, Nathan Chen’s gold medal performance, two Canadian ice dancers who brought orange spandex and sequins to the Olympics and more. It’s been quite a journey.

(Video: The Washington Post)

Project editing by Courtney Kan, Jayne Orenstein and Virginia Singarayar.

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