The Olympics. A fantastic logistical challenge, Or too much to take on?

Weight lifter

For any Logistics company, is delivering service excellence to an Olympic Games the ultimate test? Probably. Being chosen as the company tasked with providing a leading edge logistical solution for Games organisers is, of course, a plum job. And, many would say, a huge honour. Four years ago, the job went to UPS, who made a great fist of it. But were the potential transportation and traffic issues faced by the London 2012 Games organisers anything like as difficult as those that the Rio Olympics organising committee has had to contend with?

According to New Geography.com, the world’s most traffic congested cities (the ‘top five’), during peak hours, are:

  1. Moscow
  2. Istanbul
  3. Rio de Janeiro
  4. Tianjin
  5. Mexico City

Note: Interestingly, Brussels comes tenth, with London not appearing on the list.

The ideal platform

The London 2012 Games were a resounding success, helping to re-establish Britain as a major sporting power. They also provided us with an ideal platform to demonstrate our organisational abilities to the World – our capacity to literally ‘deliver the goods’ in myriad ways.

Many athletes and organisers made their name through achieving performance excellence, but there’s no doubt that the Games’ perhaps unsung heroes (UPS, for one) also more than played their part. Without logistical, supply chain and transportation brilliance, such a mammoth occasion would of course descend into an embarrassing shambles, or maybe not happen at all.

Because Logistics is all about ‘flow’, right?

In Rio this month, a key concern for organisers – as well as doping fears, staff strikes, terrorist attacks, and even force majeure – is traffic congestion, which can create a two-fold problem: 1) gridlocked roads can see spectators arriving too late for events, and 2) prior (possibly overdone?) warnings/speculation by the media and press about expected traffic jams in the city deterring sports enthusiasts, and others, from purchasing tickets for Olympic events in the first place.

Prior to the two-week sporting extravaganza, much of the mass transportation to the venues, Olympic village etc., will of course have already been done; with the arrival of equipment, products and people (workers, athletes, trainers, judges…) all having been planned with military precision.

But when it comes to organising one of the most watched sporting occasions on the planet – the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup tend to attract similar TV viewing figures – the transport management responsibility does not end there…

Overdoing prior warnings could prove costly in the long-term

Of course, enjoying an Olympic Games as a spectator can be a once-in-a-lifetime, thrilling experience. But if preceding warnings of possible gridlock around the time of the event are persistent and overcooked by the media and press, the temptation to crack open a cool beer, sit back and relax in front of a 49 inch Full HD TV, and to enjoy the show instead from the sofa becomes an increasingly attractive option. And another, perhaps too easily overlooked, consequence of all this negative news coverage is the impact upon a host city’s tourism as a whole.

If the perception is too great, that Rio, or indeed another city holding the Games, is simply going to be a nightmare to get around (“even the special Olympic lanes are causing disruption!” METRO), and that the overcrowding is going to be stifling – with hotel room, restaurant table availability etc., being low – then the tourist dollar typically (and heavily) relied upon each summer will inevitably be taken elsewhere. Never to return?

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