Jamie Yuccas on the challenges of covering the Olympics inside the Beijing ‘bubble’
This week, CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas joins Chief Washington Correspondent Maj. Garrett of Beijing to talk about what it’s like to cover the 2022 Winter Olympics, with COVID-19 protocols extremely rigid in place, and what it is like to navigate the strict COVID -19 protocols in place and reporting under the watchful eye of Chinese authorities.
Chinese officials and media in Beijing“No one came up to me and said, ‘You have to present it that way or you can’t say that. I think we were all pretty well versed and talked about the things we would and wouldn’t talk about as a group. We have cell phones with us, laptops with us. I didn’t bring my personal cell phone at all as I was informed about the security issues here. I have family and friends who have traveled to China in the past who said to me, “Don’t bring it. It’s not worth the shot.’
The only thing that happened and look, I don’t know what’s true, but Jack and I, my producer, one day were talking about how we really needed more bottled water in our room. We were just talking to ourselves at the hotel. And all of a sudden the next day when cleaning came, we both had 12 bottles of water in our room. So I have to believe that there are people who are listening.
COVID precautions and the Beijing “bubble”: “I can’t get out of the loop. We take a bus from our hotel to the workspace, which is here…I can go to different sports venues and watch some sports venues. You must wear your KN-95 and N-95 [masks]… We are tested every day. It’s a throat swab here in Beijing. You know, those results come back in the afternoon. If we don’t hear anyone, we are clear that we are continuing.
“But really, it’s been interesting because you kind of have to navigate the transportation system here. Being closed loop, there are actually three different sites. There’s Beijing, and then there’s two mountain venues where skiing and snowboarding and all those types of events take place. You have to take train systems up there. You are boarding from a completely different platform. They keep you separate from anyone in the general public.
“We even have traffic lanes here strictly reserved for buses and taxis. And the interesting thing I want to tell you about this, which we read in our playbook, is that if for some reason there is an accident with the general population of China, with our bus or our taxi , the Chinese population is supposed to stay very far from us. He says – don’t help them. Basically, let the emergency teams get there because they don’t want there to be any spread between these games and the rest of the Chinese people when it comes to COVID.
“We had to be boosted. I had to pass two COVID tests approved by Chinese government-approved facilities before I could board my plane. I had my temperature taken on the plane. When I landed I had a nose swab and a throat swab. And now I’ve had throat swabs every day since I’ve been here. Every morning I have to enter my health app, my temperature.
Mental Health and Athletes: “I think that’s really important because I think in the past we’ve always thought of athletes, especially at this level, as the kind of people who are resilient and just need to pull through and to pull through. And I think Michael Phelps, Simone Biles changed that narrative. And you really have a generation of athletes now in a time when the country is talking about mental health, especially with COVID, which I think ‘there’s more understanding and empathy around that… What they’ve told me, the athletes, is that it’s made them better in their performance, so it’ll be interesting to see how that conversation plays out unfolds and then where we go from there.
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
CBSN Producer: Eric Soussanin
Show email: [email protected]