Melanie’s #OlympicBlog from Beijing #1

It’s truly hard to believe that I am here at the Olympic Games!

I have loved the Olympics since I was a young girl, and I was fortunate to attend the Vancouver Games in 2010 as a spectator for a few days. Since then, though, I have dreamed about being able to capture the entire event as an accredited photographer. It took A LOT of work and a bit of luck to get to Beijing, but I somehow managed it. I’m so grateful to the people who have supported me along the way—probably a lot of people who are now reading this—so thank you!!

I spent the entire month of January inside my home, desperate to stay healthy, so being in public again at the airport in Cleveland on Friday morning was a bit of a shock! I encountered some snow delays along the way, but still arrived in Tokyo in plenty of time for my final leg to Beijing. In Tokyo, I met up with Danielle Earl and Greg Kolz, and it was great to see them after a few years! Danielle and I are sharing a room in Beijing, and it’s been great to have her perspective, since she covered the Games in Pyeongchang four years ago.

We arrived in Beijing in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and once we were given the all-clear from our airport test results, Danielle and I headed over to the Main Media Centre. We registered with the photo desk, got our teal sleeves that designate us as accredited photographers, picked up our press kits (swag bags), and reserved lockers. We also went upstairs to shop for some souvenirs at the store, and it was a good thing we did. It was a bit picked over then, but now we are hearing that the shelves are totally bare and they don’t plan to restock. Yikes!

We had planned to go over to the rink, but our hotel shuttle was stopping at 2pm that day, so we caught the last shuttle back to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and working from our room. Fortunately, that seemed to be a fluke, or perhaps related to the Opening Ceremony rehearsal at the stadium, which we can see in the distance from our room.

So Monday was our first “real” day at the venues! The shuttle service is a little light right now (hoping it picks up once the events begin), so we spent a lot of time waiting to transfer shuttles in various places. We caught a shuttle from the hotel to the MMC, and then another shuttle from the MMC to the Capital Indoor Stadium. They had speed skating in the main rink on Monday morning, so we wanted to go over to the practice rink, which is almost right next to the main rink. But only certain types of credentials are allowed to walk between the two venues, and media credentials are not included. So we have to book a seat on either a very tiny shuttle or a very large golf cart. I’m not sure which is the better description. They ask us to book in advance, but since we had just arrived, they allowed us to join a shuttle with a couple of extra seats that was leaving right then. 

The practice rink is fairly small (no seating), so it was nice to be able to shoot from the boards! It’s also extremely warm for a small rink like that, which was a nice surprise. I packed 8 pairs of long underwear and I don’t think I’ll need them much at all.

It finally started to sink in that I was photographing the Olympics once the dancers took the ice. In particular, the group with Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier and Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue really tugged at my li’l heartstrings. I’ve been photographing all of them for 15 years, since they were teenagers. And here we all were at the Olympics! 

After practice, we caught our TinyShuttle(tm) back to the main rink and photographed some of the men’s practice and then dance again. We’d wanted to catch pairs, but they were late at night, and one of the drawbacks of this Closed Loop Olympics is the limited food availability at the venues. There’s a large dining hall in the MMC, but the venues just have a small concession stand. There are also signs everywhere saying not to eat or drink, so I went most of the day without snacks or even much water. So after dance practice, we decided to head back to the MMC for dinner.

The dining hall at the MMC features different stands, some operated by humans, and some by robots. We arrived a bit late (around 7:30pm), and a lot of the popular options were sold out. For the day or for the week? We’re not sure. At any rate, the pickings were a bit slim, but Danielle and I both found some dinner, and ran into Greg and another photographer, Dave Holland, and joined them. Since it was pretty quiet and there wasn’t a line, I had to try the robot bar. I ordered a coconut & pineapple cocktail, and except for the human that moved it from one counter to another to serve it to me after it was finished, it was made entirely by a robot! And it was tasty, too!

After dinner, we all caught the shuttle back to the hotel. Danielle and I were anxious to start working on our practice photos, but we faded quickly. I barely got my photos sent to Daphne before I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, and she was able to get them cropped and edited and uploaded all by the time I woke up today! Teamwork makes the dream work.

I was pretty pleased with my photos from the first practice. I hadn’t shot skating in a couple of months, so it was good to reset my main camera (I had to send it in for repairs in November) and shake out the rust. Excited for three weeks of this!

~ Melanie