BEIJING (Reuters) – Ding Hongtao, a doctor at the speed skating venue of the Beijing Olympics, didn’t think he would see his fiancé for weeks once he entered the ‘closed loop’ of the Winter Games that separates staff from the general public.
So he couldn’t believe his luck when she managed to secure tickets to watch a speed skating event, even if all they could do was blow each other air kisses across two plastic panels that kept them a metre apart.
“I was so excited! We couldn’t hug, we couldn’t touch, but we could see each other,” he recalled of their five minute rendezvous at the National Speed Skating Oval.
The Beijing Olympics is taking place inside a “closed loop” that keeps athletes and Games personnel apart from the general public. Local staff must also stay inside the loop, separated from their friends and family as they host the Games in their own country.
Ding is currently staying at a hotel and spent the Lunar New Year away from his family for the first time in his life.
As an on-site doctor who attends to athlete’s injuries, the 28-year-old usually sits inside the field of play dressed in a protective plastic suit with a stretcher next to him.
“She also contributes to the Olympic Games a lot,” he said of his fiancé. “She’s a little bit sad without me, so I think it’s a sacrifice for her.”
Tickets are allocated to “targeted” groups that have no say on what events they watch.
The couple’s prayers were answered when she got tickets to speed skating out of the 15 sports being hosted, and they managed to see each other in the flesh for the first time in two weeks on Sunday.
He is proud to work at the Games, calling it the “highlight” of his career and an “expression of my love to my country.”
That doesn’t stop him from missing his fiancé. Although his face lights up when he speaks of her, he grows quiet when he recalls their parting.
“It’s complicated. At first I was happy and excited, but then I miss her too much.”
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)