BEIJING, China — New Hampshire newspaper reporter covering local Olympians has inside scoop from Beijing
Throughout the Winter Olympics, we've shared Maine's connections to the games. Reporters in other states with local athletes competing in Beijing have done the same, and Joshua Spaulding has had a firsthand look at all the action.
Spaulding is the sports editor for Salmon Press newspapers, covering all sports in the northern New Hampshire region. Spaulding has been to multiple Olympics to cover local athletes.
Like in Maine, New Hampshire sends more athletes to the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics, but he was able to go to Tokyo for his first summer games last year.
“The biggest [athlete] for us in our area is Sean Doherty, who’s from Conway, New Hampshire. And like Clare [Eagan], he’s a biathlete," Spaulding told NEWS CENTER Maine in a virtual interview.
Doherty and Cape Elizabeth's Clare Egan competed on the same biathlon relay team in Beijing, where their American team had some of its best Olympic finishes in the sport.
More spectators are allowed in Beijing than in Tokyo, where no fans besides credentialed team members, staff, and press members could attend events. Even with that increase, Spaulding said he still has access to every event and just needs to apply to high-priority events beforehand to ensure he gets his credential.
As you can see on television back home, COVID-19 guidelines are strict in Beijing. Spaulding said he has to take a COVID test every day at a facility in his hotel. He also said every hotel hosting press members or team officials has similar facilities.
“The strangest thing for sure was getting off the airplane in Beijing, and the airport was completely empty. Completely empty, it was like a ghost town except for these people in these hazmat suits," he said.
One of the attractions getting a lot of attention in Beijing is the "big air" facility. The high-flying freestyle skiing and snowboarding jump is in an industrial town, and Spaulding said it looked like significant renovations were happening.
The reason why pictures of the facility trended on social media was because of the smokestacks in the background, including the biggest one featuring the Beijing Olympics logo.
“It looks like it’s a nuclear power plant, and from what we’ve been told, it’s not. It’s just cooling towers for an old steel mill of some sort. That’s what we’ve been told, so that’s what we’re going with," Spaulding said.
Despite the COVID guidelines and limited spectators, Spaulding said the Olympic spirit is still alive and well in Beijing. Because of the smaller crowds, athletes from other sports will cheer on their fellow Americans to provide some energy and applause.
“[The athletes] know it’s the Olympics. They’ve worked for this for four years in most cases," Spaulding said. “There’s a lot of that [support] too, just trying to support each other, so they have somebody there.”
As the Olympics wind down, Spaulding said some of his favorite events he's seen were the men's and women's halfpipe final, where legendary rider Shaun White closed out his historic career and American teammate Chloe Kim won the gold medal.