Hundreds of containers heading in Japan
At the Tokyo Olympics, more than 11,000 athletes will compete in 339 sporting events across 40 different venues. There are not just athletes from 205 different nations making their way to Japan, so too are thousands of tonnes of equipment and supplies. Hundreds of containers packed weeks, or even months ago, are arriving at the ports of Tokyo and Yokohama. More is coming by air. All of it must be unloaded and transported, unscathed, to the right place at the right time.
The containers headed to Japan are full of everyday items such as mattress toppers, sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases and towels, for use by athletes and officials staying at the Olympic Village, a set of 21 high-rise residential buildings in the centre of Tokyo.
In addition, the containers also carry sports equipment and uniforms for competitions and training. Before that, the Canadian delegation packed more than 31,000 pieces of clothing for Tokyo in 2020 that had to be unpacked and hung up in a Montreal warehouse before being packed again.
Last mile delivery
In reality, 30 percent of costs and more than 70 percent of problems in transportation take place in the “last mile”. The most significant challenge in Tokyo is traffic congestion. More than 37 million people live in the greater metropolitan area. Even with the pandemic, and no spectators, the number of people on the move everyday will still be huge.
The city’s fourth state of emergency since the pandemic began was declared this week. This has reduced pedestrian traffic at five major locations in the city somewhat compared to last week.
The Olympic Village is well situated, about 18 km from the airport, 7 km from the Port of Tokyo, and 35 km from the Port of Yokohama, where most of the equipment will land. There are 28 Olympic venues within 10 km of the village, including the Japan National Stadium. There are 14 other venues further away. The golf competition at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, for example, is 70 km away, a trip that would normally take up to three hours by road.
This shows the very careful calculation of the Japanese organizers in planning the accommodation to be most convenient for sports delegations to compete.
Getting through customs
To get through customs, each national team must declare product names, quantities and prices. The organizers have issued a 90-page guide to the procedures for importing and exporting equipment for the games.
Once cleared, transporting competitive sports gear is a sensitive task. A splinter or twist in the equipment may prevent an athlete from competing. If an item is damaged or lost, there is little opportunity to wait for a replacement.
The Covid-19 epidemic also affected the distribution and packaging of large quantities. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, uniforms were collected in bases where hundreds of athletes waited in line. In Tokyo, each athlete must advise of their size in advance and their uniforms will be delivered directly to their rooms. The result will be more than 11,000 room deliveries in three weeks, plus returns.
Athletes must leave the village within 48 hours of the end of their event. With limited flights to and from Tokyo, moving delegations is as much a complicated logistics effort as is the “last mile” delivery.