High Risk of Infection in Beijing Olympics Amid of being “Super Strict Bubble”
FRIDAY correspondent's on-the-spot report: Too much focus on the "bubble method" makes things "dense. Food and daily necessities were almost impossible to come by. At night, foreign journalists drink without masks. ......
Starting with the gold medal won by Ryoyu Kobayashi (25) in the men’s normal hill ski jumping event, the Japanese athletes have continued their success at the Beijing Winter Olympics. However, behind the glamorous stage, there are actually many problems and disturbances.
At 4:00 p.m. on February 4, this correspondent arrived at the Beijing National Stadium in the center of the city. The stadium, nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest,” was so quiet that it was hard to believe that the opening ceremony was just four hours away. The corridors of the stadium were littered with cardboard trash, and the volunteer staff were eating on the ground. It’s as if we were on high alert before we got here.
Before we boarded the bus, our bags were searched by the Beijing Police and our bodies were checked with metal detectors. Water containers were checked, and mobile batteries were banned from the bus.
(A reporter from a national newspaper) The press was also subjected to a simple baggage check at the hotel, so they were double-checked with great care. On the day of the opening ceremony, the roads around the “Bird’s Nest” were blocked off for several kilometers, and many police vehicles gathered there.
The “bubble method” of the Olympics is very thorough. The people involved will stay only in the bubble, and will be transported between hotels and stadiums by special buses. The driver’s seat is separated from the rest of the bus by a thick acrylic panel, and the driver and passengers never come in contact with each other. However, there have been situations where this method has become too “dense”.
After the opening ceremony, the press had to take a special bus, but the transportation capacity could not keep up, and many people rushed to the few buses that were available. The area around the exit of the venue was jammed with numerous people, and the buses were as crowded as a crowded train. If they had been allowed to use other means such as walking, this situation would have been avoided, but the organizing committee stubbornly insisted on bus transportation,” said a commercial TV director.
Big party at Qingdao Beer
It’s not just the opening ceremony. Buses will be flooded with people during the core hours of the morning and evening, and before and after the most popular events. Even if there are two main venues and two sub venues within the grounds of a single stadium, you have to take a special bus to move between them. As a result, buses are crammed all over Beijing, and “dense” situations are becoming more frequent.
This is not the only situation where the risk of infection is high. The restaurant in the media center has introduced “robot rice,” which is prepared and served by machines. The purpose of this is to reduce the amount of human contact as much as possible, but there is a situation here that is out of control.
In the evening, alcohol is sold, and many foreign journalists buy it and start partying. The Tsingtao beer on sale is selling like hotcakes. Sometimes there are more than a dozen people at a party, and many of them are wearing no masks, so I think the risk of infection is very high.
The people in the bubble are undergoing PCR testing every day. However, this means that a cluster could happen at any time.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that the people involved are filled with stress. The only way to eat is at the hotel or media center where we are staying, but the food is expensive and not very tasty, to say the least. The South Korean athletes have been reported to have complained about the food in the athletes’ village, but the situation is the same everywhere in the bubble. The reporter mentioned above said.
It’s difficult to secure food in the first place. Many of the competitions start early in the morning or go late into the night, and it is often too late for restaurants to open. However, the store in the media center has only two kinds of cup noodles, a small loaf of bread, and a few snacks. Furthermore, daily necessities are not available as if they were. There are many empty shelves in the store, as if the delivery hasn’t caught up with the demand. There are only a few items such as toothpaste, calculators, and combs.
An inconvenient truth is spreading inside the “super high alert” that the Chinese government claims to be on.
From the February 25, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Japan Magazine Association (1st photo)