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Milwaukee sports columnist describes reporting experience in Beijing for Olympics amid COVID-19

Lori Nickel is reporting on the Olympics for USA Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Posted at 5:28 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 18:33:22-05

Lori Nickel is the only reporter in the Milwaukee area who was sent to Beijing to cover the Winter Olympics, and she has a great story to tell.

Nickel is reporting on the Olympics for USA Today, with some stories online with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Milwaukee sports columnist says in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games there were 25,000 journalists. Now, with the strain of COVID-19, there are nearly 2,500 credentialed journalists, and she isn't sure if all of them made it.

Nickel is located in the mountains, 116 miles from the city of Beijing.

"The travel is a beast," Nickel says. "There's no way to say anything about it that's nice. It's really hard. I kind of had a personal meltdown in Paris, just privately. It's 48 hours of non-stop. You're in the mask the whole time, so even just trying to sleep on the plane, you're covered in this mask. It's really hard."

But, the COVID-19 testing is strict with nearly no room for error.

"Yesterday I missed testing," Nickel says. "I thought testing was available from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. like it is in Beijing. It's 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. so I completely missed testing. I went to the hotel front desk and begged them in English, please help me. They sent someone to my room to do a test, which I cannot tell you how grateful I am. It went smoothly. You have to pass these tests. There is a zero COVID-19 policy here. There's no tolerance for it. Your hands are sprayed every time you enter a new room that's public. They make you spray your hands."

Yet there is one plus. She can attend events and speak directly with athletes.

"We do get to go to the venues," Nickel says. "We have to wear masks. We have to keep distance. But we can actually interview people one on one."

As for the culture? Nickel says Chinese New Year is something to behold.

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