Getting to Beijing was tough enough. That required about 20 hours in the air—from the Twin Cities to Los Angeles to Tokyo to China—plus layovers, Beijing airport COVID testing and customs.
Getting around once we arrived hasn't been any easier. Transportation at the Olympics is always a challenge; every day starts and ends with figuring out which bus to take where at what time. Adding to the task in Beijing is the fact that the mountain venues are far away from the city, with 112 miles between Beijing and the farthest competition zone in Zhangjiakou.
Saturday's trip to Zhangjiakou to cover Jessie Diggins of Afton in the cross-country skiathlon was an epic journey. I got on the first bus at 7:40 a.m. at the hotel (after the obligatory throat swab). That took me to the Main Press Center. It was a 20-minute wait outdoors for the next bus, to Qinghe Railway Station.
The brand-new high-speed train to Taizicheng Station is 50 minutes. Then another bus from the station to one of the mountain bus hubs, then another bus to the venue. Start to finish, the trip took a little more than four hours one-way.
And it wasn't comfortable. Usually, the media is shuttled around in coach buses at the Olympics, making the long rides a little more tolerable. In Beijing, they are using city buses. Unheated city buses. With half of the seats taped off. (This is supposedly done for COVID social distancing, but buses are often crammed with people standing, defeating the purpose.)
By the time I got off my sixth bus of the day, I couldn't feel my fingers.
At least I got back into the city by the witching hour. Woe to the wretch that misses the midnight bus from the Main Press Center to the hotel. The next one doesn't come until 2 a.m., if it comes at all.
Add in a wonky train booking app, indecipherable bus route maps and timetables that change daily, and you've got a recipe for Olympic-level stress. Suddenly, Twin Cities traffic doesn't feel like such a headache.