Recorded phones and loaned laptops. Quarantine training centers and a bubble the size of a small city. Departure check and arrival check and daily check in. So. A lot of. Tests.
Every Olympics has obstacles, from distance to language to politics. But rarely do those tasked with transporting teams, coaches, athletes and equipment face an obstacle like the test that is currently testing organizational skills, resources and events. their rings.
Call it the Logistics Olympics, because no other Olympics in history has been so difficult.
Of course, the reason is very clear. The coronavirus pandemic has caused byzantine health measures to be considered equal of course at any sporting event and virtually at any national border. But such rules are even tougher in China, where the government, which will host the inaugural Winter Olympics on Friday, has taken a “no Covid” stance on managing the virus.
Even before the pandemic, China was not an easy place to navigate for international visitors. Add the fact that the competition, which began just six months after the conclusion of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, was postponed for a year near the start of the pandemic, and the entire sports world has a recipe for proof. migraine.
The plan, then, became an Olympic sport of its own. For example, American officials chose to ship containers filled with sports equipment, office supplies and even food from last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo straight to Beijing, rewriting a play. was established, because of the unusually rapid turnaround. Regulators in every country stayed up all night rummaging through databases of approved testing sites, and coaches worked to reassure athletes. try to keep their nerve.
They have all done it and become adept at PCR and QR code tests, and in many cases the precise seating arrangements of modern commercial airliners.
Luc Tardif, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said the whole situation was “a nightmare”.
Take, for example, just the act of flying a team to Beijing. At previous Olympics – even last summer’s Tokyo Olympics – participants simply booked a flight on an existing commercial route to the host city.
For these Olympics, international visitors often have to book at considerable expense on a limited number of so-called temporary flights – special Olympic routes arranged through the organizers. approved travel hubs such as Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore and Tokyo because, with dozens of countries, there are no direct flights to Beijing.
To ensure safety and logistical convenience, the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, like many of the larger national Olympic committees, opted to charter a private jet. The jet, a Delta Airbus SE A350, departed from Los Angeles for Beijing on January 27. But for Rick Adams, the US Olympic official, whose job includes overseeing activities, arranging private jets is just the beginning.
Adams and his team still had to spend hours aligning and rearranging seating plans for every passenger, coming up with a configuration that could simultaneously position athletes (their most precious commodity). ) in the least trafficked areas of the plane and disperse athletes from each sport evenly throughout the cabin to avoid a large portion of any one team being disqualified by tight contact protocols .
“I can tell you that I am very familiar with the large Delta jet fuselage,” Adams said.
At the same time, other USOPC employees worked with individual sports federations to collect American athletes from different parts of the world where they were competing and training and bringing them safely to Los Angeles. a few days before the flight. Only then did they face another logistical challenge: All people traveling to China for the Olympics were required to present two negative PCR tests from a small list of accredited laboratories. approval within 96 hours of departure.
Obstacles like these are especially acute in ice hockey, where its team of athletes was thrown into turmoil in December when the NHL announced its players would not be competing. in Beijing.
After adding substitute players to the roster and mentoring newly-arrived Olympic athletes according to strict procedures for Beijing, international hockey officials attempted to arrange tests. coronavirus test from a list of specific (but limited) testing sites that Chinese authorities have approved to perform testing.
“When you have a Latvian player playing in Switzerland, Switzerland playing in Sweden, you can imagine,” said Tardif, noting that some players were forced to travel more than 200 miles to a centre. approved test.
And those are just health concerns. Concerns about surveillance and cybercrime in China have prompted many national teams to create digital safety plans for their delegations. Some, including Britain, the Netherlands and the United States, have ended up urging their athletes to buy rental phones and computers before the Olympics, and leave their personal devices – the most important ones. their most important to friends and family while on the go – at home.
“Like computers, mobile data and apps are subject to malicious compromise, infection, and data breaches,” reads a recent advisory the USOPC sent to its athletes.
It concluded, “Despite any and all safeguards put in place to protect systems and data brought to China, it should be assumed that all data and communications in China can be monitored, violated or blocked.”
The arduous task of organizing all of this – travel, experiments, gear, and whatever else – has fallen into the hands of a group of unfortunate souls in each delegation tasked with one of the The Game’s Most Punishment Title: Covid Liaison Officer. There is one for every country, news organization, sponsor and any other delegation going to the Olympics. These people consistently spend hundreds of hours understanding the complex rules and often rapidly evolving processes created for these Olympics.
For example, responsibility for Slovakia’s teams rests with Zuzana Tomcikova, who served as a goalkeeper for the country’s women’s ice hockey team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She oversaw travel arrangements. back and test of current teams, cycling non-stop through the bush. paperwork and Excel spreadsheets to keep things organized – or as organized as possible.
She admits that getting everyone to the Olympics smoothly will feel like a little miracle.
“Once they have all the athletes in China,” said Tomcikova, “I think I will be the happiest.”
But things are no longer simple on the ground in Beijing. At the heart of the Olympic Covid protocol is a so-called closed loop – a bubble environment that none of the participants can leave at any time during their stay. The closed loop includes more than a dozen venues, three media centres, three athletes’ villages and dozens of hotels, each of which is sealed off from the public, protected by police, and linked by a private transport network created for the Olympics.
Other sporting events – such as the NBA and Champions League – have attempted to create bubbles. But nothing on this scale.
For example, at the Tokyo Olympics, Tokyo-based workers, volunteers and journalists were allowed to return home at the end of the workday. And international visitors, initially confined to their hotels, are allowed to roam the city after a near two-week quarantine period.
On the other hand, in Beijing, everyone – the athletes; Officials; journalists; tens of thousands of chefs, cleaners and volunteers – who are in some ways the logistical lifeblood of the Olympics – will work and reside in the bubble. All will be tested daily for Covid.
Beijing organizers do not provide an exact count of the population inside the closed system, but an official tally of daily checks was carried out early last week, when there were only a small number of tourists. Incoming international visitors, gave an idea of how many employees would be involved: 38,441 checks on Sunday, 41,810 checks on Monday.
With “somewhere north of about 30,000” participants, the testing effort will soon become the equivalent of using throat swabs for the entire population of the country, according to Pierre Ducrey, IOC’s director of operations. a small city – says Santa Fe, NM – every day for a month.
Ducrey knows this better than most. He’s been in the bubble since early January.
“Things get much more complicated,” he said, “in a pandemic environment.”
Alan Blinder and Tariq Panja contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/sports/olympics/beijing-covid-tests-travel.html Welcome to Beijing 2022, the Logistics Olympics