The big news in the sporting World is Rio 2016. With all the excitement about medals and also-rans; it is easy to forget that someone has to supply the stars and their teams with kit. In fact, it is not just kit but also food and all the other little details that go into making this the highlight of the sporting year. Let, us for example, consider the logistical nightmare that is involved in flying nearly 300 horses for the equestrian events. These are not just any horses but ones that require first class treatment. The entire machinery of the freight industry has been challenged in ways that are mind-boggling but not entirely new. This amazing spectacle must be done every four years; with plenty of international events in between.
Rio 2016 has needed about 30 million different items to be shipped to ground zero in the best condition. Everything from firearms to napkins must be given the Olympic treatment. To complicate matters further, many of these items were sourced from far-flung places across the globe. There are nearly 6000 cargo containers packed full of goodies. They arrived by all means possible including sea, air and even the good old road. The split was 70% through ocean shipping; 25% by air freight and the 5% on truck. Fernando Cotrim (the logistics director for the event) was responsible for checking that everything was just so. China has been one of the major beneficiaries of the shipping boom with a combined total of 80,000 pieces of bedding for the athletes and officials.
Some Top Olympic Goods for Shipping
Anything that you can think of was included in the shipping list. Of course, the athletes would not be without their designer kit including shirts, dresses, gowns and swimsuits for the pool events. Then you have the shoes and accessories. The Olympic Village was something of a major hotel fixture with all sorts of requirements including food, water, and entertainment equipment. There was also an array of barstools, soft drinks, and an assortment of Knick-knacks. A single team from a major country such as Germany might require up to 500 separate items which are then multiplied by the entire team.
That is not even including the support teams which consists of coaches, trainers, and physiotherapists. The officials also have to live the high life during their days of judging technical details as complex as the extent to which four young swimmers are synchronized. Jochen Thewes (CEO for DB Schenker) reported that they were shipping nearly 1.3 million items to the Olympic Village. In order to deal with diversity and volume of items; the largest containers measuring about 40 feet are used. Space is at a premium and time is of the essence. It all makes for a highly pressurized operation.
Difficulties and Challenges in Shipping for the Olympics
The first challenge is quality. Nothing but the best will do for Rio 2016. The goods are of top grade but they must not deteriorate during transportation. Nobody wants broken tents, ragged shoes or expired food. The suppliers must not only ensure that they get the best sources but that they also deliver the items in top condition. Because the items come from so many different places, it is very difficult to coordinate them. Landing schedules and sign-offs must be agreed and followed to the second. Animals such as horses require extraordinary care to survive the long and stressful journey to Brazil. Then there is the issue of security. Thieves would like nothing more than to be able to pilfer some state of the art equipment to be discreetly disposed of later on the black market.
The shipments include the delicate materials that are used to test for doping and other banned activities. It is in the best interests of everyone to ensure that Rio 2016 is a clean event. The testing equipment travels with VIP protection at all times. In some cases, the fluid samples of the athletes are shipped in for historical and current comparisons. Doping has been in the headlines following the exploits of the Russian Federation so everyone is on extra tension to ensure that the shipment of the testing equipment is beyond reproach. In any case, they must also have extras of all the items; just in case the first sample gets finished too quickly.
Getting Sustainable Supplies to the Athletes
No supplier worth their name is going to ignore sustainability issues when delivering items to Rio 2016. President Obama of the USA has already stated that climate change is one of the most important threats facing the world. That means that anyone that gets a contract to deliver any item to the games must also show that they are in compliance with the highest sustainability standards. That means not sourcing goods from dodgy sweatshops. It also means using the least expensive means of transport, not only in terms of money but also the environment. There would be an outcry if the entire cargo was brought by air freight. That is why the ships are becoming an unlikely ally in delivery sustainability to Rio 2016. Sustainability also means being able to recycle that which has been used or not used. Hence the shipment may not be a one-way process after all.
It is interesting to note that there are many facets to the Olympic Games. The athletes are focused on winning medals, preferably gold. The organizers want a quiet life while the fans want to be thrilled. Meanwhile, in the background, the logistics teams want to ensure that everyone gets what they need in time and to the high specifications of Rio 2016.