Beijing Olympics: the missed trip to the capital

At the start of the Games, Olympic athletes face a dilemma. Should we go to the opening ceremony? This spectacle, some athletes only experience it once in their life. But, a few days before the tests, it is costly in time and energy.

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Journalists also have a choice to make: the sites of the Winter Olympics being particularly geographically fragmented, it is necessary to devote almost an entire day to the ceremony, especially with the strong restrictions due to Covid. For me, the choice was made: it was not to be missed.

New train line

It was also the occasion to rub shoulders with the transport system of the ” closed loop “ of the Games, not easy to understand when you have just arrived. This Friday, February 4, the plan was therefore, in theory, simple: take the bus from the hotel to Zhangjiakou station, where a train would take me to the capital, in fifty minutes instead of four hours. by the road.

In the middle of a 137-page PDF document, I had unearthed the timetables for this famous high-speed train which has just been put into service. 12:40 p.m. Perfect for being well ahead of the Bird’s Nest, the national stadium, for a ceremony that begins at 8 p.m. (1 p.m. French time).


Of course, not everything went as planned. First we had to wait forty-five minutes in -10°C to get a shuttle. Direction the press center, obligatory passage to then board another bus, towards the station. Forbidden to make any journey on foot, even for a few hundred meters. That’s the closed loop.

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No trace of shuttle on site. Another wait in the icy breeze. Long conversations with Chinese agents behind their visors, digital translators in support, do not bring more clarity. There is still one way: order a taxi to reach the station. This is the mission we set ourselves, with a companion in misfortune, a Norwegian journalist.

But a staff member comes to dampen our hopes: no more trains leave for Beijing today. Only two actually reached the capital in the morning. Why reduce traffic on such a busy day? Mystery. It is too late to hope to arrive in time with the coaches. We will therefore discover the Bird’s Nest during the closing ceremony, if we manage to get there in time.


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