In order to prepare for the Olympic Games, more than 6,000 containers, holding almost 30 million items needed to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Among the three categories of cargo bound for the games (event equipment, technology, and furniture) nearly 70% needed to arrive by ocean carrier into a country with an average documentation time of 146 hours; 93 hours is the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. While we often focus on the calamities that occur in a world-wide spectacle, the actual creation of the Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup ushered in new and streamlined approaches to customs.
In addition to beds and mattresses (40,000 of each), 450 tons of timekeeping equipment (including 125 miles of cable and 414 scoreboards), high security fluid samples from the athlete’s (in order to maintain anti-doping compliance), and the firearms needed for team shooting Olympic events, Emirates SkyCargo transported 310 horses from 5 hubs (for forty-three competing nations), along with feed, handlers, and veterinarians to Rio. A BRL 2 billion ($628 million) infrastructure investment, which included BRL 1 million ($312,000) ramp expansion to connect with transport trucks in the airport helped prevent delays while unloading the animals for competition at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Olympic Park. “You’ve got to provide the best conditions for your [animal] athletes,” said Martin Atock, managing director of Peden Bloodstock GmbH, a German company that has handled Olympics horse transport since the 1976 Montreal games. “We’re delivering horses in peak competition fitness, and we can only do that if we offer optimal conditions.”
Horror stories loomed as large among logistics professionals as the rumors of rampant Zika and unclean water in Guanabara Bay did in the general news. Notoriously difficult and exacting in their standards, Brazilian imports are susceptible to a BRL5000 fine for discrepancies and only in July adopted the ATA Carnet system to ease import restrictions on temporary entries. The adaptation helps maintain a same day turn around for Olympic cargo imports. The ATA Carnet acts as a merchandise passport to ease restrictions on temporary goods for trade shows, samples or professional equipment so they can enter countries tax and duty-free. It should be noted that Brazil’s department of revenue is the governing agency for Brazilian customs.
In 2014, Adriano de Souza, who was poised to become the 2015 World Surf Champion, had his competition surfboards seized and held at Rio’s airport for nonpayment of taxes. Though athletes who travel with equipment are often exempt, De Souza’s boards were being carried by an associate when they were taken. Brazilian customs refused to return them after De Souza refused to pay and the surfer went on to lose to Tiago Pires while using backup boards at the contest. This wasn’t De Souza’s first altercation with customs; in 2012 Brazilian authorities seized his J-Bay trophy and held it four months.