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A Look at the Supply Chain Challenges at the Games in Rio

Written by Elias Schoelmann
August 16, 2016

Learn more about the supply chain management strategy for the games in Rio.

Learn more about the supply chain management strategy for the games in Rio.

The games in Rio are underway, which means supply chain management strategies are in full swing. From transporting athletes across the globe to ensuring supplier efforts are environmentally friendly, those in the supply chain have a lot to consider. Making these processes even more challenging is the fact that the games in Rio are a one-time event, meaning supply chains can’t adapt over time. This one-shot deal has brought as many successes as it has obstacles.

Sustainability a Major Concern for Rio Supply Chain Management

Environmental challenges are a global issue, so it only makes sense that an international event would take the climate into consideration. In fact, sustainability has been integrated into nearly every facet of the games.

As the International Olympic Committee explained, the games naturally have a substantial influence for environmental best practices related to big events. What happens in Rio 2016, for example, can impact the way stakeholders plan future affairs. Because of this, partners have made sustainability a priority for the games since the early 2000s, and supply chain management isn’t immune to this trend.

According to a 2015 report from Verdantix, adhering to sustainability standards has proven to be quite the challenge for supply chain management in Rio. For one, the definition of “sustainability” isn’t always clear. The term’s meaning changes with context, so event organizers must first identify what it means for an event like the games. Additionally, pricing during procurement becomes muddled when there is no clear criteria, which makes sticking to a budget difficult.

Despite these challenges, stakeholders of the games in Rio have still been able to integrate sustainability into the supply chain in many ways. For example, organizers have required suppliers to have certain certifications, such as the ISO 20121 Sustainability In Event Management certification and the ISO 14001 on environmental management, to ensure environmentally sound practices. Organizers also implemented a strict monitoring process to verify that suppliers adhere to sustainability criteria.

A Bumpy Road for Rio Logistics

Travel is more challenging on a global scale, and logistics issues are certainly present at the games in Rio. Bloomberg highlighted the difficulties of transferring 300-plus horses to Rio de Janeiro in preparation for equestrian dressage, jumping and eventing games. Supply chain management had to take many facets into account, including having a veterinarian on board with the animals and ensuring the horses arrive ready to perform. That is, they must receive the appropriate food and have enough space to move around while traveling.

As with any large-scale delivery, the process took significant preparation. Galeao, the international airport in Rio, has been working on a $628 million project since 2014 to adjust its infrastructure to accommodate for deliveries of some 30 million items, including the horses. Meanwhile, Brazil had to adjust its customs process to ensure all equipment could be delivered in an efficient manner.

Even domestic logistics, such as transferring participants from the athletes’ village to the stadium, has seen obstacles. Speaking with the Associated Press, Max Siegel, the CEO of USA Track and Field, explained that his team expected these challenges considering the geography of the location.

“You’ve got a city with a mountain in the middle, and you’ve got to go around it,” Siegel explained.

The trek from the athletes village to the stadium can take up to an hour, and Siegel has emphasized the importance of allocating for travel time in the athletes’ schedules.

The Ripple Effect Felt at Home

It’s not just the supply chain management team for the Rio games feeling the pressure of this event. Months of preparation have been necessary for U.S. supply chains to meet a changing market. As the Supply & Demand Chain Executive explained, retailers must treat international sporting events like seasonal adjustments – just as inventory management of a retail store might stock plenty of sunscreen during the summer months, business must have sufficient supplies of red, white and blue gear and snack food for the influx of event-viewing parties.

Predicting demand can be tricky, and miscalculations can lead to anything from expensive storage costs to out-of-stock sales losses. Because of this, supply chains must be ready to adjust as demand fluctuates. This requires data collection solutions. Having automated data collection ensures all stakeholders of the supply chain remain aware of customer behavior and adapt as necessary.