COVID-19

Here's How Media Members Will Get to the 2022 Winter Olympics

Reporters, prime-time hosts and camera operators have been attending the Olympic Games for generations, but for the past two years, they have done so in a global pandemic

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Members of the media have been attending the Olympic Games for generations. However, it has not been as simple as it used to be, considering the last two Olympics have occurred simultaneously with a pandemic. 

The quadrennial international event offers members of the media some of the greatest and most exhilarating content to cover throughout the three-week period. However, this amazing opportunity comes at a cost this year.

The safety precautions and protocols for athletes, spectators and media personnel are more intense than ever, however NBC has adopted this attitude: the show must go on.

NBC LX’s Fernando Hurtado and Ngozi Ekeledo will be covering the Olympics in Beijing alongside prime-time host Mike Tirico, while most other NBC correspondents will be reporting from their headquarters in Stamford, Conn., due to COVID-19 concerns.

Hurtado arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport at 12:34 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 24, just 11 days before the Opening Ceremony, to begin his entry process.

Here’s everything members of the media must do in order to step foot on Chinese soil to do their jobs, as told from Hurtado himself: 

What steps must be completed to attend the Beijing 2022 Games as a media member (prior to taking flight)?

China has a zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19, therefore 14 days prior to travel, members of the media must start monitoring their health on an app created by the Beijing Organizing Committee. 

Within the app, individuals must answer questions regarding symptoms (fever, dry cough, headache) and their temperature, which is updated throughout those two weeks before heading to the airport.

Next, members of the media are required to take a COVID-19 test 96 hours prior to takeoff. This test must be negative.

The 72 hours before takeoff are the most crucial, as individuals are required to take another COVID-19 test. They must all fill out a form to receive a Green Health QR code, which tells the Chinese government and the Olympic organizers that you have tested negative for the virus, are fully vaccinated and are safe to attend the Games.

The day of the flight, NBC requires members of the media to take one last COVID-19 test before boarding the plane to Beijing, just to catch any last-minute positive results.

How do airlines promote safety amid the 16-hour flight?

Hurtado rode Delta from LAX to Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, waited on the tarmac for flight crews to change and then flew two more hours to land in China’s Beijing Capital International Airport.

In order to ensure safety among passengers, seats were blocked off in columns to increase distance between individuals.

Like any other pandemic flight, face masks were required for the duration of the ride.

What steps must be completed to attend the Beijing 2022 Games as a media member (upon landing)?

According to Hurtado, several individuals in white hazmat suits were waiting on the tarmac for the plane to arrive. Passengers were told that once landed, those officials would board the flight to check everyone’s temperature. However, a change of plans occurred and passengers were asked to deboard the plane first. 

Chinese authorities ask that passengers wear approved face masks upon landing: N95 and KN95 masks. 

Passengers are required to check into kiosks, which ask typical customs questions and more COVID-19 questions.

Of course, COVID-19 tests are next on the agenda. China requires a nasal swab (extremely deep) and a throat swab, to ensure accuracy.

Reporters then must have their Olympic credentials activated. 

Finally, members of the media are taken to baggage claim and then the bus, which transports them to their hotel. Individuals are asked to wait inside their hotel rooms until their negative tests come back. Once the tests come back, individuals are asked to return to the hotel reception to finish their check-in process.

It is crucial for participants to remain indoors inside the hotel (however, they can leave their rooms) for the first 24 hours after arriving in Beijing. This is NBC policy. 

What types of limitations are people facing from China? 

Every ounce of movement is monitored and directed by officials, considering China’s “closed-loop” system, which allows individuals to enter the country without undergoing a 21-day quarantine. The media can not cross the loop, meaning they cannot interact with locals, other visitors, or anyone who is not there for merely Olympic participation.

Members of the media are extremely limited as to where they can go. There is a high green fence surrounding the hotels, ensuring no participants leave the bubble. This is not a conventional tourism trip to the historic city of Beijing, because individuals can only transfer between their hotels and the Olympic venues. In addition, they must be transported by official Olympic shuttles. Walking, cabs and public transportation is prohibited.

What do members of the media have to do daily to participate?

Daily COVID-19 tests are required. If you do not take the test, you are ineligible to work that day. If you test positive, the Olympic playbook requires you to be taken to a separate hotel room to quarantine if you are asymptomatic. If you are symptomatic, you are transported to a Chinese hospital. You may only leave either facility once you are symptomless, your body temperature has been normal for three days and you have had two negative tests within 24 hours.

Who from NBC is going to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics?

This year, NBC already has 250 people in Beijing -- a majority of them being technical staff and one of them being NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel.

NBC is sending two NBC LX reporters, Hurtado and Ekeledo, who will do the primary coverage, alongside prime-time host Mike Tirico. Tirico will be handling the coverage from Feb. 3-10, however he will then be flying to Los Angeles to do the network’s coverage of the Super Bowl. Depending on the outcome of the Super Bowl, Tirico may or may not be back for the last week of the Beijing 2022 Games.

Most other NBC correspondents will be reporting from their headquarters in Stamford, due to COVID-19 concerns and China’s strict policies.

This will be the second Games where the broadcast teams will work from NBC Sports headquarters, rather than the host city. It’s similar to the Tokyo Games last summer when NBC announcers were stateside, except for track and field, swimming and gymnastics, which had announcers in Japan.

Head of NBC’s Olympics production unit Molly Soloman said, “With COVID’s changing conditions and China’s zero-tolerance policy, it’s just added a layer of complexity to all of this, so we need to make sure we can provide the same quality experience to the American viewers. That’s why we are split between the two cities.”

The network is no longer sending announcing teams to cover alpine skiing, figure skating and snowboarding in Beijing.

“Our plans will continue to evolve based on the conditions, and we are going to stay flexible as we move through this,” NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes said.

NBC is staying extremely transparent about their choice to have a majority of their announcers not onsite. After all, remote coverage has become all the more prevalent since the pandemic’s surge.

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