Steady focus helps SOS Global find logistics success for Olympics clients

February 15th, 2014 By Ken Kerschbaumer, Executive Director, Editorial

After one week of the Winter Olympics, production personnel and equipment vendors agree that one of the main challenges has been logistics. It’s a process that includes many pieces, many of which have not gone as smoothly as they should have. Hotels? Some broadcasters have had nightmarish experiences involving everything from half-built accommodations to hotels that simply never opened. Venues? All were ready for “opening day,” but having multiple owners of the venues made moving in and around venues difficult in the months prior to the Games.

But one aspect of logistics that has gone well is getting equipment into and out of Sochi — particularly for clients of SOS Global Express, which has been preparing for the Sochi Games since 2011. Over the past four months, SOS Global has moved 200 tons of broadcasting equipment for numerous rights- and non–rights-holders and has also supported more than 30 of the largest broadcast vendors and equipment providers to the Olympic Games.

“SOS Global set up a dedicated team for Sochi back in 2012,” says SOS Global VP Steve O’Connell. “They were tasked with working on ‘outside of the box’ solutions for the challenges we knew our customers would encounter in Sochi.”

He says that, although many believed customs would be the biggest headache, the largest obstacle was actually the lack of air-freight capacity directly into the Sochi/Adler airport.

“To overcome the lack of air-freight capacity into Sochi, SOS Global set up its own capacity by operating charters directly from Germany to Sochi,” he says. Offices in the U.S., UK, Germany, and Russia coordinated B747-F and Tupolev 204 charter flights. Over the course of the Olympics and Paralympics, SOS will have handled seven charters directly into Sochi/Adler Airport and moved 50 tons of commercial freight through various European and Russian terminals. The charters avoided the congestion at and long drive times from Moscow airports.

“These flights were spaced sufficiently apart to give our customers a great range of dates to move their kit,”  says O’Connell. “SOS Global also set up boots on the ground in Sochi to support customers while in country, a warehouse within 3 km of the IBC in Adler, and local trucking solutions for anyone needing to move kit locally.”

In Sochi, broadcasters had access to SOS’s dedicated warehouse, guest house, and Russian-based project managers with local labor and equipment at their disposal.

For all the preparation, though, there are still plenty of things that can go wrong during the Games. And another challenge has been shipping replacements into the country in a timely fashion given visa issues, etc. SOS Global has looked to mitigate those problems.

“SOS Global has handled dozens of last-minute emergency moves on behalf of rightsholders and their vendors from North America, Asia, and Europe,” adds O’Connell. “We have utilized commercial carriers like Aeroflot and Lufthansa with direct services to Sochi/Adler and also run vans and trucks from Moscow when required. We have been operating 24/7 in this capacity since early 2014.”

With the Games concluding in about a week, some venues are already beginning the tear-down phase.

“Our team will begin breakout operations beginning Feb. 20 and will be on the ground until at least March 10, and our team will then begin work on Paralympics,” says O’Connell. Beginning March 1, direct flights will begin from Sochi/Adler to Germany, where all equipment will be segregated for return to vendors or distribution out to other events.

Adds O’Connell, “SOS is offering warehousing in Germany for any customers who wish to QC their kit there before sending it to Brazil for the World Cup.”

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