Elana Meyers Taylor, the flag bearer for Team USA, spent the day she was meant to lead her country into the Olympic Stadium in solitude in a Chinese hotel. In a room she was not allowed to leave because she had tested positive for Covid-19, she watched the Opening Ceremony on TV.
As fate would have it, Ms. Meyers Taylor was among the fortunate. She made a full recovery and is now one of the favourites to win medals in two different bobsled events.
Luck is Relative in the Gloom of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Usually the Olympics are a time of joy and celebration across the world thanks to the participation of athletes from all around the world, but this year has been different. The Olympic motto is “Faster, Higher, Stronger—Together,” yet the mood at these Beijing Games has been more sombre and subdued than that.
Athletes in the Olympics sometimes compete in front of mostly empty arenas, with no fans to cheer them on. Some athletes use N95 masks during training and games to prevent the spread of disease. The rest worry every day that they will fail a test, be sent to isolation, and have to watch their years of training go to waste.
Earlier this week, Polish short-track speedskater Natalia Maliszewska was mistakenly taken from her hotel room at 3 a.m., hours before her scheduled competition, and taken to a secure location. She tested positive, and she was sent back into seclusion as a result.
Ms. Maliszewska characterised the situation as “a great joke” to her. For the sake of whoever is in charge, I hope you have a blast. Both my emotional and intellectual reserves have reached their limits.
Pandemic has compressed the event to fit into a claustrophobic bubble, amplifying the regular stresses, strains, and tolls of competing at the Games.
Earlier this week, after testing positive for Covid-19, American figure skater Vincent Zhou was quarantined in a hotel and placed in isolation, where he felt a growing sense of despair. He had already missed out on his chance to compete at the individual level (he skated in the team event), and was now waiting for the results of two negative PCR tests to be able to return to freedom.