Oleksandr Onyshchenko (left) and Ukraine Paralympic Committee President Valerii Sushkevych at a press conference on 3 Mar 2022 in Beijing after the International Paralympic Committee announced the termination of RPC and Belarus teams.

Episode 227: Beijing 2022 Paralympics Preview

Release Date: March 4, 2022

Alison has made it to Beijing just in time for big breaking news about the participation of Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) and Belarus in the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. Plus, Jill covers the torch relay and Alison shares how Beijing is different than other big cities.

Within hours of Alison landing in Beijing and being accepted into the warm embrace of the Closed Loop, we had breaking news from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC): Even though Russia had broken the Olympic Truce by its violent invasion of Ukraine, the IPC would allow RPC and Belarus, which is abetting the Russians, to compete in the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics as neutral athletes. They would have to cover up any national colors; they would receive medals but under the Paralympic flag and anthem; medals would not count on the country medal table.

The IPC did this because there’s nothing in its constitution that addresses what to do if a country breaks the Olympic Truce (because why would a country break the Olympic Truce? Note: this is a United Nations document that lasts for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics. The Beijing 2022 truce was co-sponsored by 173 of 196 nations and was adopted by consensus). They couldn’t legally change its constitution – that can only be done by membership at a General Assembly, and you need six months’ notice for that, so there’s going to be an Extraordinary General Assembly in six months time to discuss this matter, as well as whether to terminate the membership of Russia and Belarus.

Fast forward one day, and due to feedback and escalating emotions in the Athletes’ Villages, RPC and Belarus have been terminated from the Games. Although this decision could be challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, if the IPC didn’t make it, these very Games were in jeopardy.

In our episode, we talk about how this unfolded here in Beijing, as well as the emotional press conference from the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee that followed.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!


Note: While we make efforts to ensure the accuracy of this transcript, it is machine-generated and may contain errors. Please use the audio file as the official record.

Jill: [00:00:00]

Jill: Ni hao how fans of TKFLASTAN and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I’m your host, Jill Jaracz, and through the plexiglass. I see my lovely co-host Alison Brown. Alison Ni hao, How are you? Welcome to Beijing


Alison: Ni hao. Thank you. I am very confused about what day it is.

Jill: How long does it feel like since you’ve landed?

Alison: About a week.

Jill: Okay. It feels like you’ve been here forever too. And you got here yesterday.

Alison: I got here yesterday. I’ve been here pretty much 24 hours.

Jill: That’s true.

Alison: The travel took about 36, roughly and I randomly slept during those various legs of the travel. So I never knew what day it was.

Tuesday just did not happen in my world.

Totally missed out on Mardi Gras and Pancake Tuesday. And came back and it was Lent. And I was like, what happened? And all my Catholic friends were posting things about ashes. And I was like, wait, no, I missed out on Pancake Day. I was in an airplane. That’s not okay.

Jill: Well, you got here just in time for massive news.

This has been a whirlwind 24 hours.

Alison: Yes. Agreed. This is, you know, we expected I’d have a couple of days to kind of settle in and get my bearings. And I was not here, but three or four hours and we were in a press conference last night.

Jill: Exactly. So, just a whirlwind of events. We’ll walk through them. Last night, the international Paralympic committee made the decision to allow athletes from the Russian Paralympic Committee and from Bel.. Oh, I should let you know that we are coming to you from the Main Media Center in Beijing, 2022 in the closed loop. And, you might hear vacuuming, we have heard vacuuming, but it’s not really the magical hour vacuuming, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen there, but just in case you should know and there’s going to be noise.

Alison: It’s a more active time for actual people doing actual media work.

Jill: Yeah, exactly. It definitely is a them the magical hour vacuuming, but anyway, yesterday the IPC made a decision to allow athletes from RPC and from Belarus to compete. Even though there has been a lot going on in terms of the war in Ukraine and the biggest deal is that Russia invading Ukraine and bombing there has violated the terms of the Olympic truce, which is a UN document that about 200 countries signed, including Russia. And that is saying that there will be peace for the weeks around the Olympics and the Paralympics. And yet just a couple of days after the Olympics ended Russia invaded Ukraine and started a war.

So that has clouded infinitely what has been going on here at the Paralympics. In the interim between the games, a number of sports worldwide have canceled the ability for athletes from Russia and from Belarus to compete in their events. They have withdrawn events that were going to be held in Russia and Belarus.

And there’s a lot of calls for that. The IPC had to make a decision and they had a long executive governing board meeting yesterday. And the decision was to Allow the athletes to compete as neutrals. So Russia was going to be the neutral Paralympic athletes and Belarus was going to be the Paralympic neutral athletes.

Those were going to be the codes that they had to use because in the, the systems they have here, all athletes need codes. And so like country codes, but the deal was, they couldn’t wear any flags or colors on their uniforms. They would compete under the Paralympic flag. They would have the Paralympic Anthem, they could receive medals, but there would not be any record of them on country medal tables at all.

So they weren’t even going to be a Paralympic team. They were just going to be individual athletes who happened to be here and are competing for themselves essentially. So the reason they did that was because in the constitution of thr The International Paralympic Committee, there’s no statute for what happens if a country violates the Olympic truce.

Alison: There are many things of how a NPC can be. A national Paralympic committee can be suspended [00:05:00] or expelled, but one of those criteria is not violating the truce.

Jill: Right, right. Which made it very complicated because then that’s why they allowed them,  they were going to allow them to compete because basically they said, look, this is not in our constitution.

We as a governing board, which is like the executive board of the group, can’t make this decision unilaterally without the input of our members and the membership of the IPC or all the countries. Paralympic committees and they meet in a general assembly, like every couple of years. So, in order to add a statute around the Olympic truce, they would have to call a special, extraordinary general assembly meeting,

Alison: which they had done

Jill: Yes, but in the terms of that, they have to allow six months for that to happen. And that’s kind of like if you live in for the US, and I know not everybody lives in the U S, but you’ll have local governments who have to post notices of town meetings and they have to give so much time. And I’ve been in cities where they’ve had to cancel the town meeting because they didn’t give the required 48 hours notice or whatever amount of time that people needed to have to get themselves ready for this meeting. So basically the IPC has to give six months notice for a meeting they’ve scheduled. They’ve called one. We’re all on notice.

They’re going to talk about this and probably put something in their constitution about Olympic truces and they are going to make a decision whether or not to terminate the memberships of Russia and Belarus.

Alison: I mean, Russia was already in trouble and was already competing as RPC as opposed to Russia.

So this was a whole other level. And that is what yesterday in the press conference, Andrew Parson, who is the president of IPC, who we don’t talk about enough, as much as we talk about T Boc, was really emphasizing, saying we can’t ban these athletes. It’s two days before the start of the event. If we ban them or exclude them, they’re just going to go to The Court of Arbitration, for Sport and CAS is going to overturn whatever we’ve done, because legally we can’t do this.

Jill: Right. Because IPC is located in Germany and they are under German law jurisdiction and they would not legally be able to.

Alison: And then that’s how we went to bed last night.

Jill: And a lot of people were upset.

Alison: Yes.

Jill: And like the immediate reaction around that we saw was not happy about this and not understanding how the IPC could let this happen. And I get it. We saw just how Andrew persons and Craig Spence who’s is the spokesman of the IPC. And we got to say, both of us have talked about how fourth rate these two are in press conferences, and you can just tell, like the IPC is a much younger organization and a much smaller organization than the IOC.

So you get, you get a lot more of this being frank and honest, and you could tell just how hard this meeting was. The board did not come to a unanimous decision on this. So, you know, there are differing opinions in the room. And they knew their backs were against the wall. And Andrew Parsons had said, look, yeah, like you said, they could go to CAS and CAS will probably overturn this decision and allow them to compete.

So we’re just going to do this because this is what we can do. Right. And we can’t violate our own constitution. Because that crosses a line where if you violate the, if you violate our constitution, then the constitution just doesn’t stand anymore. And there are no rules.

Alison: Both. Actually everybody on the, the podium last night was filled with emotion.

Jill: Yes. And also there was a, you had Jitske Visser, who is the chair of the IPC Athletes Commission and Duane Kale, who is the Vice President of the IPC. And when everybody spoke, it was. We know this is not the decision that’s going to make everybody happy. And yet this is the best we can do with what we have in front of us.

Alison: And Andrew Parsons used words like the invasion was disgusting and against humanity and unimaginable and Craig Spence, I was joking about this with you saying as the press conference went on and on his posh accent started to disappear and he sounded more and more Jordy. He was so emotional in that wonderful, honest way where you feel like this is terrible.

I know this is terrible. Everyone’s going to [00:10:00] hate me. And yet this is what.

Jill: Yeah. Yeah. And that it was frustrating. You could, you could see that they just really did not want this to happen. So yeah, that’s what we went to bed too. And then today we got up and the torch relay has kind of started or they did something today with a torch relay and we’ll get to that too, but they allowed a few members of the media to go and watch the torch being handed off. And it was supposed to be an athlete from Italy who’s a summer Paralympian, and she was going to hand the torch off to Andrew Parsons. And Andrew is going to run with it for a little while and then hand it off to the next person and would be available for interviews.

Well, I got selected to go to this. Andrew was not there. They said he would not be available today. And Duane Kale would be there in his place. And as so the torch really was kind of funny because they had three flame guarders and the flame was in a box. It was in like a black box with silver edges.

You know, the kind of box I’m talking about. Hard cover, hard shell rectangular box. And three flame watchers were with it and they march it in and we have the torchbearer and they opened the thing and there’s the little lantern with the flame and they take some of it out and somebody turns the gas on the torch and you hear the “phoomph”

And just to show you can, you couldn’t see the flame, but you could hear it because it was daylight. And they had a little section of, they had like this open Plaza and we’re in the Olympic Forest, which is right next to here. So I’m just on the side outside of the that big tower that’s outside. I’m on the other side of that.

So we can’t go there physically, but apparently it’s still in the Closed Loop.

Alison: The Olympic Forest?

Jill: Yeah, it’s the Olympic Forest. They built it for 2008. Yeah, I know. It’s very nice. I met somebody who said they would go running there. There’s like a 10 kilometer trail you can take. So they had like in the plaza, the backdrop of the torch relay, and that’s where they did the initial lighting.

And she ran with it for a little while and they had this it was the path in the Parkway and they had taken a whole bunch of Torchbearers in little carts and driven them further out. And I didn’t know if they were going to like, They’re off doing their relay. Would we be able to, or are they just going to do a lap when they come back or what’s going on?

Alison: With the abandoning, the torch in the forest?

Jill: No, I don’t think so. I think we’re on a relay now.

Alison: So we leave crumbs that it can find its way back.

Jill: So. They had along the side of the path and an area blocked off for media and they kept trying to tell us, well, you know, they’re going to do this and then they’re going to go in, there’ll be available down there.

And I thought it would be like a mixed zone and they’d work their way down. No, what it was is the torch starts taking off and we all have to run after it. And most of the media there is photographers. So of course they have all this gear and they’re running and snapping pictures and running back into place and trying to get in the best place to get pictures of the relay.

And I’ve been talking with somebody from the New York Times and, and everybody’s running it when, like, I think we should go. So we’re behind everyone trying to run to catch up. She’s, poor thing, is laden with her press bag. And she had gone and gotten a Shuey Ron Ron. So she has her big bag from the store.

Alison: She didn’t know this would be an active adventure.

Jill: Neither did I!

Alison: Level three of activity. You were expecting a level of one.

Jill: She did say, because she had lived in Beijing for three years and then when COVID broke out, she moved back to Taiwan and she did say, I never thought I’d be running here again.

Alison: But you know, you have been in the Closed Loop, you have been not allowed a bunch of physical activities. Well, this was a little rough.

Jill: This was a big deal. So we run and then the media path stops and I’m like, oh, we don’t get to go any farther, but this is where Duane Kale’s leg ended. And then he was available for questions.

And there was I don’t want to say a handler, but it looked like somebody from IPC media, his name is Philip. And I can’t remember his last name. Sorry. And there was a lot going on. He had in his hand, a press release, a copy of a press release and he showed it to Duane Kale, and he showed it to somebody else just like on the organizing committee or something.

And I was able to look at it and see, and I saw terminate RPC and Belarus’ participation. So I texted you.

Alison: Yeah. So I was [00:15:00] back here at the Main Media Center working and you texted me and said, a press release has come out. And I said, I don’t know anything about press release. And then just at that moment, they announced over the loudspeaker that they were going to have a press conference in about 15 minutes.

And I said, oh, they must be moving up the one they rescheduled from this morning. Oh, no, this was a whole  in addition. And it was about the press release and I was watching the Latvian and Ukrainian reporters and they were standing around like nothing. So I was thinking what could possibly be going on if they’re not reacting?

Some Russian reporters behind me, on the other hand, all of a sudden got very loud. So get up to the press room and Andrew Parsons and Craig Spence are back precisely on time, which is not generally the case to announce that RPC and Belarus would not be allowed to participate at all.

Jill: What made the U-turn on the decision?

Alison: So there’s no legal change and Parsons made that very clear in the press conference and in the release, there’s no change to the legal standing. So there could still be legal challenges. However, they made a reference and I want to get the quote exactly. So here’s what they reference and Parsons repeated this.

However, what is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the games and ensuring the safety and security of athletes of paramount important to us. And the situation in the athletes village is escalating and  now has become untenable.

So, what seems to have happened is NPCs individual teams, individual athletes were contacting the governing board and saying, we’re not going to compete against Russian and Belarussian athletes. We’re not going to take the ice in ice hockey, in, sled hockey because there was an RPC team, we’re not going to compete against them and wheelchair curling.

And then individuals we’re going to boycott. And Craig Spence then said that governments were contacting their NPCs and asking them to refuse to participate if the Russians and Belarussians were allowed to compete. So the only thing that they said about what was happening specifically in the athletes village was that emotions were running very high.

There was, they specifically said there was no acts of aggression. There was no violence, but people are on edge. People were threatening to leave. People were threatening to boycott. So I think there was a fear that it could escalate into actual violence and that the safety of RPC and Belarus’ athletes were at risk in addition to, would other athletes act out in such a way that could, could complicate matters.

And then there’s the added factor that Craig Spence spoke about, that there was a risk that the entire games could not happen because if you get enough boycott, this is not a huge operation. You know, this is not the summer Olympics. So you have fewer than a thousand athletes. You have about 700 and if enough big delegation say no, this entire operation falls apart.

Jill: Yeah. And that’s really the incredible part of it all. And it was kind of funny because Duane Kale, I mean, he had been briefed on what had happened, but he wasn’t talking about it in the, in his mixed zone area, he kept saying, you know, go and look at the announcement, go and look at the announcement. And that’s when you had texted me and said, Hey, it sounds like people want to boycott.

And so I ended up asking him about that and I’ll see if I’ve got the tape. And see how audible the tape is because he did try to defer, but then Phillip grabbed me and three other international journalists because he’s like the Chinese journalists are not going to care about the situation and gave us a little background on what was going on and said it had been a long 12 hours for them.

And I can only imagine how tough it has been for everyone involved. [00:20:00]

Andrew Parson and Craig Spence looked a little worse for wear than they did last night. And they looked a little weary last night. So I don’t think they have slept since we saw them 14 hours ago. And the difference seemed to be that while a lot of NPCs said we would like you to ban RPC and Belarus, nobody talked about boycott. And when the IPC said we’ll allow them to participate as neutrals. Then the NPCs came back and said, that’s not good enough. And if you don’t ban them, we’re going to boycott.

Jill: Yeah. And you brought up how interesting this boycott situation is when you start talking about boycott, it really felt like we were starting to understand what it was like in 1980, 1984. And it’s interesting that Book Club Claire had picked the boycott book for our first book slection this year.

Alison: I know, so it was, fresh in our brains and because the Winter Paralympics especially is so young and is so small. And the viability of it is always in question because of the low number of countries who are able to participate. The only two teams sports that are in the Winter Paralympic games. If you have a major boycott and one of these events doesn’t happen, could that kill the Winter Paralympics? It really could. You know, and, and that was talked about in 1980, and then again in 84, is this the end of the Summer Olympics?

Jill: Right? Because those were much smaller then too.

Alison: So. Is evolving. And as Andrew Parson said, he expects there to be legal action in the next 24 hours. We’ve got opening ceremony in about 24 hours, and this is not done. This is not going to be the last press conference. This might not even be the last press conference of today.

Jill: Yeah, the way things are going. It’s, it is pretty incredible.

I know that one of the CBC reporters from Canada Broadcast Corporation had gone around to different venues today, wondering why flags weren’t removed. So it had gone to hockey and said, you know, the RPC flag is still up. And, you know, I’m sure that all of the organizers of the actual sporting events we’re probably scrambling because, you know, maybe they’ve got a stash of Paralympic flags hanging around somewhere, but you know, maybe they ordered just enough.

Alison: Right. And we do not know as of yet, you know, when we were in the press conference yesterday, we couldn’t find out how the Opening Ceremonies with these neutral athletes were going to happen.

They hadn’t even worked that out yet. So now we don’t know what’s happening with both wheelchair curling and sled hockey, because RPC had teams in both of those. Will they just have byes? I mean, it’s really too late to replace them. Right. You can’t stick another team, 24 hours ahead, those tournament start right away.

Jill: So there’s that. And there’s also what you mentioned the snow flame, because they’re going to have another one. I was out in Zhangjiakou yesterday and saw them building the snow flame. That’s going to be at the Medals Plaza there because they did have another torch with the flame there. And again, we’re, it looks like we’re going to have something similar with a (spoiler alert for Opening Ceremonies), not a cauldron. So you can just turn this off if you don’t like cauldrons, it’s not a cauldron, it’s not even a cauldronnette. It is the torch stuck in the middle of a snowflake, but the snowflake is made out of the country names, placards that come in. So what do you do?

Because all of a sudden you have two holes in your snow flame.

Alison: Do you just put blanks in?

Jill: Yeah. Do you have blanks? Hopefully you do.

Alison: Did you keep some snowflakes in case one broke?

Jill: So yeah. Then it’ll be really interesting to see how all of this. Yeah. How, how do they incorporate this decision with a day to go?

And there’s a tremendous amount of work for so many people to do right now to make this decision feasible. I mean, well, it’s feasible, but you know, now th th now the, at the, I did get to some of the press conference and they were talking about, okay, we’ve got to get, make sure the, basically talked about the safety of the Russian and Belarussian athletes to get them out of here safely and make sure that everybody is, and [00:25:00] hopefully get people focused on sport.

And we know that the poor Ukrainian delegation, which is about 39 members in biathlon and cross country skiing. So they’re all up at Zhangjiakou. You know, that delegation is had a rough time of it just to get here. The Ukrainians, held the press conference right after this.

Alison: Right, So it was Valerii Sushkevych, who is the president of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee spoke and I lost all professional qualities there. And I just started crying in the press conference. That was rough to get through. Thankfully, I was quiet and kind of in the, you know, in the side. So as tears are streaming down my face, they are getting caught by my paper mask.

But as he’s describing the struggle to get those Ukrainians here and they are here and they are safe, but their families are not. And, you know, we’ve heard stories of, there was a, a junior biathlete and I’m sorry, his name is not in front of me, in Ukraine who was killed. Other biathlon biathletes have left their team and returned to Ukraine to fight.

I’m sure there are many other athletes in many other sports from Ukraine who, who have gone home to fight. And to hear him tell the story. They didn’t even know where all their athletes were and trying to collect them and collect their equipment and collect their, team support and get them here was a Herculean effort and it was heartbreaking and his emotion and the emotion of his translator. And it was palpable.

Jill: Yeah. And Valerii talked about how him getting there. He’s in a wheelchair and basically they were on a bus. Athletes are coming from all regions of Ukraine to try to make their way to this bus. It’s going to get out. They don’t have paperwork to get out, but luckily Poland let them in.

They had flights from Levine and they canceled those. But the, and got on this bus Poland let them in with no visa charges or what, whatever Poland is doing to allow refugees in. But basically he said, Hey, I didn’t fit in the seats in my conditioner and my wheelchair. So I had to sleep on the floor of the bus and they, they look like they haven’t slept in days.

They’re so worried about getting here and getting here safely and being able to compete because they have a lot of people saying, look, you have to get there. You have to compete. You have to show the world the resilience of the Ukraine people. So there’s a lot of pressure on their shoulders. Just to prove Ukranian resistance to this war and to show that because they said, if we don’t participate in this  Ukraine doesn’t exist. And that, that was heartbreaking.

Alison: That’s what got me. That is the moment that got me. Cause that, that idea that, you know, we talk so much on the show about the Olympics and the Paralympics being so much more and being so much more than a sporting event. And seeing him up there and saying our participate, you know, Ukraine participating in this Paralympics gives them a continued national identity at a time when that is under threat, struck me in a way that this war hasn’t.

I mean, obviously you see the images, you hear the stories, but seeing him in person say that made me feel something that I have not felt about that kind of event before. And I think that’s part of what being here means both for him and just for me as an individual, that’s what, it’s not about the wheelchair race.

It’s about you’re representing your country. You’re here. You have identity. You’re representing people with disabilities. You’re representing history. You’re representing so much. And the fact that he’s here to say his country is worthy of existing.

Jill: Yeah. It’s tough. And, and the irony was not lost on him that this war made it so difficult for Ukraine to be here. And war is what creates a lot of para athletes. So, I mean, it’s hard. It’s, it’s going to be a really hard Paralympics for Ukrainians. It’s going to be hard for those who are of Ukrainian descent because, you know, team USA has Oksana Masters and she was born in Ukraine and [00:30:00] I can imagine how she feels.

Alison: And I’m sorry that that’s going to be all that people are going to be asking her about.

Jill: Yeah. You know, any of them,

Alison: Any of them. Yeah. Ukrainian athletes as well. That that’s what their Paralympics are going to be about that. It’s not about the joy of competing about having reached the pinnacle of your sport, that it’s about your country under attack.

Literally your country being invaded, not knowing if your family is alive, right. Not knowing if there’s going to be a country to go home to, you know, will your passport have any meaning in two weeks? What do you do with that? What do you do with that? But the only good thing I can think of that is that everybody around the world is kind of on team Ukraine right now. And I hope these athletes feel that.

Jill: Yes, I’m interested for the opening ceremony, the reception of Ukraine. And hopefully it will be a big one.

Alison: I was interested to see what the reception would have been for RPC and Belarus, but I’m kind of glad I won’t see it. I think it’s better for everyone involved. Honestly, you know, they’re talking about that. They kept dancing around this mood in the village and we haven’t been able to get we’re so isolated from the athletes. What did that really look like? Were there protests happening? Were there some meetings that didn’t go quite well?

Yeah. Parsons used the word volatile. Yeah. And I don’t think he used that lightly.

Jill: No, I, I think it’s a tough 24 hours is an understatement from the, what the feedback they’ve gotten and feedback is also probably an understatement. I think they’ve been just in meeting, after meeting and had to call another emergency meeting of the governing board.

After talking, they talked about the Chefs de Mision today and that of course they got an earful from them. And this is, it’s a really tough situation and it’s very weird to be in the bubble because I think for us, this situation is like the figure skating one, which will dominate the news of the Paralympics for the entire games. And that’s not what they want.

Alison: And what’s interesting is I have a feeling that people back in the U S are hearing more about what happened in the village than we are because American athletes are communicating it back. Or if they’re being interviewed, you know, we just haven’t gotten access to them.

And, you know, social media, we can get it, but I don’t know how much people are talking about it directly. You know, the athletes here.. If their posts. So, we may need to, even though we’re here, get more information from our American friends to give it back to us because we’re not getting American news.

Really. We are in the closed loop.

Jill: Yeah. Yeah. It is very interesting to see how we’re tied in. And yet we’re not because I’m sure that the local media is not, this is not a story. Not, not that it doesn’t apply, but it’s going to be like the Kamila Valieva story in which I was very surprised to see a sentence talking about the doping.

And so there was a little bit of mention of that, but the focus was more on the sport and I think the focus and the tone of what we see in the local media and on, on the CCTV feeds are focused on sport. So let’s just change topics, close this out with the good things that you’ve had so far.

Alison: Well, I do want to mention something strange about my trip from the airport.

Jill: Okay.

Alison: And actually the are my, my travels on the bus. So I get to Beijing airport and I go through various and sundry corridors. And I got to say, these volunteers are just such amazing kids. They’re all really sweet and kind, and as helpful as they can be and a mask and full hazmat suit. And they give me wavy hands and they say welcome to China.

And the woman, the first woman who checked my credentials was like, welcome to China. You are beautiful. I said, thank you. Cause I just got out of 36 hours of travels. So that was such a sweet lie that she told me. And I get on the bus and it’s my first view of [00:35:00] Beijing. I have never been to an Asian country before and I’m like, there’s just kind of looks like a city.

Yeah. Okay. So there’s some Chinese writing on the buildings I’ve been to Chinatown. This is not so strange. And nothing really looked foreign. You know, it sort of looked like an amalgam of a bunch of different cities that I had seen. Until I got on the bus to the Media Center and it went past the Museum of the Chinese Communist Party.

And on the top of that building is a giant hammer and sickle red and gold. And I realized I’ve never seen anything like that outside of a movie. I have never, you know, I had never traveled in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union when that was, I had never seen anything like that, except on some movie about the Soviet Union or, and I just realized you are in China and such a strange little detail to make it feel, you know, everything else, people speaking Chinese people, it was that.

Would that hammer and sickle that really said, oh boy, you are not in Kansas anymore.

Jill: We should have you once the military channel, which, you know, it’s, it’s funny. Cause I would flip through the channels every now and then, and they do have military channels and there would be a lot of war movies. And then you realize, oh, but we have a lot of war movies and our own military channel.

And it’s just interesting to just go, Oh, yhere’s a different version of that in other countries. But I am trying to turn you on to the variety channel.

Alison: I have seen Chinese Idol or, or China’s Got Talent or some sort of, and here’s the best thing you do not need to understand a word of Chinese. You get when they’re telling the sob story you get.

When she’s talking about how her dead grandfather inspired her to sing this song. And the one judge that, you know, hums and sings with every word. So we’re not that different.

Jill: Yeah. Very, very true.

Alison: And college kids taking selfies with their tongues out and the peace sign. It translates to any language I have discovered, but what was really cute was I was on a video call before walking around the media.

And they love to wave at whoever you’re talking to on the other side, which was great, which is exactly what and I was talking to my college aged daughter and she’s like waving back at them. And I was like, this is this, this is so fantastic. They’re on opposite sides of the world. Then these 19 year old kids are all waving at each other. Which is the point, which is the point.

Jill: So, speaking of stuff, that’s a little different. I did mail out our postcards to our Kickstarter supporters who were on the postcard level. This did take me awhile to, to figure out how to do, but I managed to figure out how not to stand in line because there’s huge lines here at the post office, but they really are the long line to pack up what you want to ship home because there’s boxes.

And then the other long line to ship those boxes away. But there is a third window that is stamps. And so I went and got some stamps and they gave me my stamps and a little bottle  and I said, oh, this is nice. I don’t have to lick the stamps. It was a bottle of glue because there is no adhesive on the stamp.

Alison: I’m glad you didn’t lick it. You would have looked really weird. Why is that American licking the stamps? Oh, you know the other thing that is different, nobody walks on escalators here.

Jill: No, they do just stand mostly.

Alison: even here in the Media Center. Which is many many nationalities, is that an American thing?

Jill: Occasionally somebody will walk, but it is occasional.

Alison: I am the only walker

Jill: Always? You will always walk up an escalator?

Alison: I do.

Jill: Okay. I do sometimes if I’m in a hurry or if I am in a, I gotta get some exercise mode. Cause the escalators here are very long.

Alison: You understand how big this building was! It is an airplane hangar you have been working in. With two story escalators.

Jill: Yeah, the escalators are pretty giant. Everything is giant. Welcome to China, but yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve also been on the, so when it snowed, there’s an escalator outside or cause our the media center is in the basement and there is an escalator outside there’s doors to the outside here and there’s escalators and stairs that will take you up to the main level and then you can get the bus.

So I used to just run out those to get the two o’clock bus [00:40:00] on time. Well, the day it snowed. They closed the escalators and they had to come in, but then it would be the escalators weren’t working. And I had to one day I had to run, like I had to get the bus and the big long two story escalator was shut down.

Alison: It’s like Rocky

Jill: And I had to, it was, I had to run up all of it and I’d sit there on the, I made the bus cause I was making that bus and just Huff and puff and be like, you know, I have been doing this for a couple of weeks now. I can not, not Pant like a crazy person?

Alison: You should have just started running for the torch

Jill: Can’t find it.

Alison: It’s in the cauldronnette.

Jill: It’s not a cauldronette, it’s a snowflame. All right. I think it is time to wrap the show up because we got ourselves some prepping to do. It’s opening ceremonies tomorrow So we will start our daily episodes. Then we are so excited to have you on board for this. We want you to join along in the games with us and

Alison: we will introduce our mascot

Jill: Yes, we have a new mascot tomorrow. So goodbye to mascot Bobby, if you’ve seen online I did trade a pin for a little stuffed animal rabbit head. It is just a head.

Alison: It’s terrifying.

Jill: So poor Bobby has been our mascot. He’s been helping us out.

Alison: So for tomorrow, you will meet our new mascot for the first half of the Paralympics.

And we want you to celebrate the games with us on our Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook is the place to hang out with us and other listeners. Jill is on Twitter. I am on insta. Both are at flame alive pod. You can also email us at flamealivepod@gmail.com. Call or text us at 208-352-6348

That’s 2 0 8 Flame It. Though we may have to answer you in the middle of the night, since now, We’re both on China time.

Jill: But that’s okay. We can manage, we will catch you back here tomorrow for the excitement That will be the Paralympic games. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, keep the flame alive.