A dozen horses, 13,000 rounds of ammunition, 132 sofas, 40,000 tea bags and a red telephone box barely scrape the surface of the inventory that the British Olympic Association have shipped to Japan for this summer’s delayed Tokyo Games.
Even in the best of times, getting Team GB to any Olympics and back is a logistical test of epic proportions. In this age of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the largest team heading abroad since Barcelona in 1992, the challenge has been monumental.
‘It would be no exaggeration to say it is the single biggest logistical effort in British sport, when you consider that we are effectively taking part in over 30 concurrent world championships,’ says Mark England, the BOA’s Chef de Mission this summer.
A huge shipment has been sent out to Tokyo for Team GB athletes ahead of the Olympic Games
375 athletes will travel to Japan this summer, the largest team to travel since Barcelona 1992
‘Our team at the BOA [HQ] is relatively small with just 50 or so staff and delivering the Games in normal circumstances is a massive undertaking. When you consider we have had to plan and re-plan the Games due to Covid, you then realise what an incredible effort it has been to take the team to Tokyo.’
Barring any late hiccups, 375 Team GB athletes will compete in Tokyo, the largest number at any Games on foreign soil since the 389 who went to Spain 29 years ago. They will also be accompanied by more than 500 coaches and other support staff.
Instead of going out together on just a few flights, and coming back together when the Games are ended, as would be typical, athletes from different sports will travel in waves of dozens of flights across 28 days outbound and the same homebound.
A dozen horses, 40,000 tea bags and 13,000 rounds of ammunition are among the items sent
An iconic red telephone box has also been delivered to Tokyo (not pictured)
‘This is our biggest team since Barcelona 1992, and we will be departing throughout July to take part in what will be an incredibly special and emotional Games for everyone involved,’ says England.
Before departure, every member of the Team GB delegation will have attended one of 21 ‘kitting out’ days at the NEC in Birmingham, where between them they will have received 100,000 items of Adidas teamwear. That works out at an average of 114 bits of kit per person across the whole delegation.
Yet that is just a small part of a logistical operation that has been in the planning for years, then revised and revamped for this COVID era. Our accompanying panel provides a snapshot of what has been sent to Japan.
‘The majority of our freight is focused on creating exactly the right performance environment for the athletes first-and-foremost,’ says England. ‘We take out a lot of important medical supplies and performance equipment, which will be utilised in our preparation camp and a facility we call our Performance Lodge, both of which are essentially high performance training centres.
‘One of the big differences this time is the amount of Covid mitigation supplies, including face masks, PPE, sanitiser and some specialist equipment such as self-sanitising button covers for lifts.
Union Jack furnishings have also been sent to make our athletes feel at home in Tokyo
‘I don’t think people realise, but when we get to the Olympic Village we essentially inherit a pretty functional and bare new build apartment block. We have to kit that out and make it a home-from-home before the athletes arrive, so we supply everything from Union Flag doormats, to kettles, coffee pods, tea bags, clocks, spare tooth brushes, bins, you name it.
‘I think Tom Daley attributes his love of Union Flag furnishings to the amount of time he’s spent in the Olympic Village down the years!’
‘The freight left on a container ship in March and has been warehoused before being transferred to our venues over the coming weeks. Importantly, we work very hard to ensure we offset all of our carbon emissions and this is just a part of our sustainability plan as an organisation, which is improving all the time, with the aim that we become carbon positive in future Games years.’
TEAM GB BY NUMBERS
A snapshot of some of the people and equipment going to Tokyo 2020
375: Team GB athletes. They will travel on dozens of separate flights on 28 different dates, timed to arrive days before their events start and leave just after. There are also 28 different return dates, with the final athlete returning on Monday 9 August
500+: TeamGB support staff, including coaches, physios, medics, mechanics, horse grooms, boatsmen, officials and press officers. Some staff will arrive before any of the athletes and leave after all the athletes
30: Shipping containers sent to Tokyo by the British Olympic Association from March onwards with Games equipment and supplies, equating to around 550 pallets of gear. The average weight of the first five containers was 5,000kg each (5 tonnes)
18: Rowing boats, from single sculls to eights. And 12 sailing dinghies, four windsurfers and 13 RIBS (rigid inflatable boats, for support on the water)
26: Bicycles for Team GB competitors on the road and track, and for BMX and mountain biking, plus spare parts
12: Horses, which will be flown to Japan via Liege in Belgium on specially adapted Boeing 747 freight planes along with other horses from competing European nations. These ‘horse flights’ will not fly as high as commercial airliners to alleviate discomfort, so airspeed will reduce and journey time will be longer, at about 16 hours
8: Tonnes of haylage for the horses, plus 8 tonnes of horse feed. And 450 tubes of Polo mints, which are the horses’ favourite treat
13,000: Rounds of ammunition for the TeamGB athletes taking part in shooting events. Separately (not in the shipping containers), TeamGB will send five shotguns and a rifle
28: Union Flag deckchairs for the Team GB areas of the Olympic Village, as well as 80 Union Jack rugs, 77 packs of Union Jack playing cards and 253 ‘Pride the Lion’ soft toys
132: DFS sofas for the TeamGB Olympic Village rooms, as well as 600 Dreams mattress toppers and 500 door wedges
40,000: Tea bags
22: Brompton Team GB bikes for the Olympic Village and another 16 for the Team GB preparation camp
35: Boxes of Jelly babies
146: Touch-free sanitiser dispensers
2: Boxing rings (bought and assembled in Japan)
1: Giant “Connect 4”
1: Giant “Jenga”
1: Red telephone box