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A security guard opens a gate to let a bus inside the Olympic 'closed-loop' in Beijing, on Feb. 7.ELOISA LOPEZ/Reuters

Shortly before the start of these Games, Beijing authorities issued clarification on what to do if one of the many vehicles transporting people around the Olympics’ closed loop should crash: Nothing.

In order not to risk possible coronavirus infection, bystanders should stand fast.

“Please pay attention to maintaining a safe distance,” the instructions instructed. Maybe not so “safe” if you’re the one wrapped around a phone pole, but we must all do our bit for the Olympic movement.

This friendly reminder popped to mind the other day as we cruised along on Beijing’s 4th Ring Road at 100 kilometres an hour in a standing-room-only city bus.

The good news is that at those speeds, unbuckled, it doesn’t matter how long the coroner takes to get there. The bad news is that the lumpen Frenchman standing on your toes might cushion your cruise-missilling out the front windscreen just enough that it takes you a half-hour to die.

This scenario is as close as any Olympic visitor can get to “touring” Beijing. We are here and not here – staying in hotels we cannot walk out of, driving past restaurants we cannot eat at, looking through bus windows at people we cannot interact with.

Over the past few decades, we’ve invented all sorts of tourism. But adding the pandemic, the Olympics and China together has invented a new one – anti-tourism.

Anti-tourism is the destruction of the touristic impulse through shock therapy.

First, you do all the worst parts of travel: get on an airplane, sleep on the floor of a cold terminal, get gouged by a mediocre hotel, eat the same dinner every night.

Then you expose yourself to the good things that make the bad parts of tourism worth it. But you can’t have any of them here. You can see them. They’re right there. But no touching.

There’s a temporary fence in front of the hotel. There’s a gate that must be dismantled every time a vehicle arrives or leaves.

The Forbidden City is 10 kilometres from our hotel. We’ve already come 11,000 km or so toward it, but we’re not going to make it those last 10.

That’s high-level tourism thinking. Anti-tourism takes you back to the essentials.

Every day, the closed loop bus that takes us to and from the Olympic hub goes past a vegetable stand. They might even have some fruit in there. At night, the place is lit up like Christmas. It’s so beautiful. The people in there seem so friendly and full of important vitamins.

I haven’t had a vegetable that wasn’t stewed for two weeks.

The Great Wall? Sure, that would be amazing. They say you can see it from the train that goes up to the mountains, but I think that’s a lie meant to keep people from despair.

Me, I’m laser-focused on that vegetable stand. Maybe I can get them a message. Have them throw some celery over the wall. Or a jar of pickles. God, what wouldn’t I give for a pickle?

The best analogy is The Great Escape minus the peril, but someone has to put up an L.L. Bean and a motorcycle dealership just outside the wire.

Tokyo 2020 was anti-tourism lite. The Japanese didn’t want you out and about, but as long as you weren’t trying to crash restaurants, they tolerated it. You were free (wink-wink) to walk about and see some stuff.

Beijing 2022 is total lockdown. Because the Chinese staff in here with us are worse off (three weeks of quarantine to get in; three weeks of quarantine to get out), they aren’t inclined to bend the rules because some foreigner is feeling frisky.

Most venues are laid across a dividing line. Early on at the hockey, I spotted Olympic mascot Bing Dwen Dwen in the stands. Finally – a local who would not reject me because I’m leprous. He must embrace me like a brother. It’s in the Olympic Charter.

I rushed over to see him. But Bing was just across a Plexiglass barrier, cavorting with fans outside the closed loop. When I tried to take a picture of him glorying in his ursine freedom, a couple of security guards shooed me away.

During the week, someone passed along a brochure for a virtual tour of a panda sanctuary that would take place inside the main press centre. I pictured 3-D goggles and a brief Calgon moment. Some sort of transportive experience.

I couldn’t find the room, so a volunteer offered to take me there. As we rounded the corner, we ran into the mascots – Bing and Shuey Rhon Rhon. The volunteer screamed so loudly that I jumped.

“I DID NOT KNOW THEY WOULD BE HERE,” she yelled, and then ran off to get a picture with them. So it kind of worked out for the both of us.

The brochure promised “an intimate date with Bing Dwen Dwen.” What we got instead was a dingy living room set-up and a choppy live feed of a bunch of young pandas rolling around adorably in a zoo. Which is great and all, but I get YouTube. I already have thousands of hours of panda cuteness at my disposal.

There were about a half-dozen of us there. After we’d sat down, a camera crew showed up to film us watching the TV. I’m not talking a little B-roll. They set up the camera, turned it on and left.

We sat in our enclosure watching the bears loll around in theirs, all of us being filmed for reasons that were not clear, but probably weren’t to any of our advantage.

Who would see this incomprehensibly dull footage of journalists so dimwitted they’d been grifted into watching a panda’s home movies and think it worth the space on the memory card it filled? A bureau of anti-tourism, I suppose. If they intend to keep strangers from dropping in, this might do the trick.

After a while someone came in and handed out comment cards. A bit later, they removed the camera. Then the feed cut out and we were all staring at a blank screen.

“I guess we’re meant to sit quietly and think about the pandas,” said a Scottish woman sitting beside me.

So we all did that. It beat getting back on the bus.

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