Everything the last few weeks has revolved around timing the bus schedule properly. Sometimes, everything works out, and I actually enjoy the stress-free nap time on the ride to the rink, but other times, I feel like I miss every bus by a minute, I’m stressed to the max, and I feel like I waste half the day on the buses (or shivering at the bus stops). It just depends.

I’m also discovering that figure skating is among the most demanding sports, schedule-wise, at the Games. Danielle and I went to a Big Air snowboarding final last week, and we were in and out of the venue in less than two hours. Granted, we did arrive just barely in the nick of time at the start of the event, and didn’t even attempt at getting a Field of Play (FOP) position. But still, an entire Olympic event that lasts roughly an hour? Figure skating could never.

It’s funny to hear the other (multi-sport) photographers complain about the length of the skating events. 30 short programs? Piece of cake! Try the short programs at Junior Worlds. Or the free skates at a well-attended Senior B in Europe.

Many of the agencies and major news media outlets can have their photographers bounce around and cover several different events in a day. But for figure skating, if their photographer wants an FOP spot, that’s about 7-8 hours of the day right there, if you include the time to bus to the rink. Thinking about it that way, I don’t feel as bad that I’ve fallen woefully behind on getting photos published.

Danielle and I also realized over the weekend that we needed to get organized if wanted to photograph a few more sports. So we did short track speed skating the night before the Rhythm Dance, on a day that we were heading out to the venue to photograph dance practice. Since figure skating and short track share a venue, it was fairly convenient, and since the Rhythm Dance wasn’t an early morning, it made it a little easier, although it was still quite a long day. In a non-pandemic world, if we could just run out and grab some food at one of the many restaurants that we’ve seen near the rink from bus windows, that would make a huge difference. But alas.

Short track was really exciting, and even with multiple heats and events, lasted only a couple of hours. I felt like it was barely enough to get comfortable and to feel like I was getting good shots. It’s been days, and I still haven’t even looked at my photos, except for this one. Someday!

Unfortunately, we kind of let time run out on speed skating (long track), and we won’t be able to attend a race due to conflicts with figure skating this week. But we’ll go to a training day and hopefully we’ll be able to get some nice shots. We also have a couple of curling matches on the schedule. The only sport in the Beijing cluster that we’ll miss is hockey, and I’m okay with that. I’ve heard that it’s a bit of a challenge as everyone is shooting through glass. It would have been awesome to go up to the mountains, but I didn’t bring the right cold weather gear for that, and the trip is quite long (3-4 hours each way). Even on days “off,” I still have a lot of catching up to do.

We are now midway through the dance event, and it has not disappointed at all. I am so happy to be able to photograph this event. I admit that I was kind of dreading the programs when this rhythm was announced, but I’ve ended up liking a lot of them. One that I’ve really liked all season is Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue’s Janet Jackson RD, so that was a great way to end the event. Many of their teammates were in the audience cheering them on, so the vibe in the arena was actually pretty good (for an un-packed house). And Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron’s RD is one that I needed to see in person, and also from the front. Photographing it from practice, straight on from center ice, was really impressive. They also skated with so much joy in the competition; I felt like I hadn’t seen that from them in a few years. And it was a world record!

It was actually the second world record that I saw in two nights. At short track, I got to see Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands set a world record in the 1000m, and she did it in the quarterfinal race. It was a bit strange and underwhelming, but then she went on to win the gold in the final of that race later that night, and that was the huge celebration that I was waiting for, so it all worked out.

Today (Feb 13) was an “off” day, although we went to the rink for practice because we wanted to make sure that we were able to photograph the free dances from the judges’ side. I had good luck during the team and men’s events for FOP spots, but more people are starting to sign up, and I feel like my luck is fading. We’ll see what I get tomorrow morning, but I plan to take any FOP spot that I can get, as the photographers in the stands are not permitted to enter FOP for the awards ceremony.

After dance practice, Danielle and I went back to the MMC to check out camera gear for the next day, and after working for a bit, we ran into another friend, who told us again that the buffet at the Shangri-La was excellent, and that was all we needed. After a couple of weeks without an exceptionally good meal, we got on a bus and headed to the Shangri-La.

First of all, their bus was HEATED. It was still a city bus, which is what is used on most of the routes, but the seat configuration was a bit different, and the heat was on. Another world already. Then we arrived and had to stand under a sanitizing mist. The hotel was beautiful (of course), but we had a hard time finding the restaurants, because we didn’t see any staff to ask. We saw a lot of people in the full white sanitation suits, but no staff. Then we went to the front desk and the person behind the desk was also wearing a white plastic suit, and it was then that I realized that all of the staff had to wear the full get-up at the Shangri-La. At our (budget) hotel, only the medical team that does the PCR tests wear the full suits; the staff wear mainly black blazers and white dress shirts. 

The buffet at the Shangri-La was excellent! They had Peking duck, fresh sushi, and tons of adorably decorated steamed buns. They also had steak (I’m not a steak fan, but it looked good!) and the thing I was most excited about—fresh vegetables! I hadn’t had any vegetables that weren’t drowned in oil since I had arrived, so I filled up half of my plate with broccoli and carrots, and then I went back for more. We also got several desserts, which we haven’t had much of since arriving, either. It was just really nice to finally fill up and eat a full meal. I feel like I’ll make it through the rest of the event now!

~ Melanie