Horse Passports and Temporary Furniture: Olympic Supply Chain

By Alex Batty, MHI Marketing Communications Coordinator |@mhi_alex

As the Olympics come to a close, the heat of competition dies down and some (*cough, cough* me) become a bit reflective. Networks spend all this time showing us backstory and talking about the rush of victory and the agony of defeat. But what I want to know is: How did all the stuff they use get there?

I mean, I can’t even get myself and one bag home for Christmas without missing something. I end up shipping stuff back out to myself later on in the break and around that time, shipping is a nightmare. So how do Olympic teams get all their stuff to a foreign country in the right city at the right time? Here’s what a little Googling taught me.

Rio1Horses (for equestrian events) get shipped via FedEx.


Yep, you read that right. Just like we ship stuff across the country via FedEx, horses get shipped too. They ship them over a few weeks in advance to let them get settled, but horses are generally pretty good travelers. For the London games, FedEx loaded team USA’s horses onto specialized jet stalls, like horse trailers, in a pressurized upper deck of a FedEx cargo plane. They get food and water and escorts to make sure they’re okay the whole time. Weirdest part about it? The horse actually have passports, just like people.

Rio2The Olympics, like any large event, are a logistical nightmare, ‘cause you gotta get the stuff there.


In Rio, estimates are that 30 million items flooded into Brazil’s second largest city. Around 70% of imports came by air and 25% by sea, with the rest being trucked overland. With hundreds of thousands of volunteers, 10,500 athletes, and approximately 500,000 foreign visitors arriving in Rio, housing, food, and other necessities all need to be coordinated.

Rio3The Olympics often require host cities to do extensive logistics infrastructure updates to support the influx of people and things.

In Sochi, they spent $8.7 billion completing the road and rail infrastructure needed to transport everyone from spectators to athletes. In Rio 2016, the international airport Galeão invested $628 million in infrastructure updates since August 2014. Rio even created legislation to ease customs processes so that gear can pass through ports as quickly as one day.

rio4The Olympic Village houses around 18,000 people for three weeks and the furniture they need totals out to 1.3 million items.

Because this is all temporary housing, all 1.3 million items have to go somewhere. They’re usually sold at auction, but this year for the first time ever, they’re being sold at online auctions. RGS Events manages the furniture items and enlisted B-Stock to create auction websites. B-Stock works with retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot, and will now be selling lots like 4,000 plastic folding chairs.

Any way you slice it, the Olympics and logistics handling go hand in hand. Sometimes things get messy (it’s a cosmic law that nothing can go perfectly), but more often the industry learns cool new things. During London, out-of-hours deliveries were tested and were a huge success for the customer. Rio is focusing on global supply chain sustainability as they execute the games. Olympic logistics managers develop new tools, initiatives, and strategies that get folded in to supply chain at large to help the shippers and customers and everyone in between. Cheer for your team during the Olympics, but also Go Team Supply Chain!