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Geared up for PyeongChang

Medal hopeful Johannes Rydzek and all the other athletes from Team Germany were kitted out from head to toe for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Seen here in the double portrait picture are Johannes Rydzek (r.) and Stephan Schmidt, Head of Sports Events Germany

Photos: Matthias Aletsee

Johannes Rydzek casually leaps onto the back of the shopping trolley – only to bring it to a halt a few meters further on, next to a sign marked “Accessories.” With a smile, a woman behind the counter hands the 26-year-old a bobble hat to try on. It’s a perfect fit! Rydzek, a Nordic combined athlete, is currently Germany’s Sports Personality of the Year and one of Team Germany’s big medal hopes at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

Bobs and muesli: DB Schenker is also providing extensive services on behalf of the Swiss Olympic team. The first shipments of equipment were dispatched as ocean freight as early as November last year.  Photo: Schenker Schweiz AG / Marc Hofmann
Bobs and muesli: DB Schenker is also providing extensive services on behalf of the Swiss Olympic team. The first shipments of equipment were dispatched as ocean freight as early as November last year. Photo: Schenker Schweiz AG / Marc Hofmann

Less than two hours later, Rydzek’s shopping trolley is packed to the brim with all manner of clothes and official apparel. At the “kitting out” of Team Germany, which took place in Munich in January, 154 athletes and their coaches were provided with everything they might need to ensure they make a stylish appearance in South Korea. On this particular morning, the five Nordic combined athletes belonging to the team around Johannes Rydzek, are the last to negotiate this marathon course and pack their sports bags.


All in all, the final tally came to 458 bags – which DB Schenker then transported to South Korea. This was merely a small portion of the many tons of freight that have been dispatched by the “Official Partner Team Germany PyeongChang 2018.” “Skis, edge grinding and waxing machines, massage benches, furnishings and equipment for the team office: the list is incredibly long,” says Stephan Schmidt, Head of Sports Events Germany. The 35-year-old and his team are also officially partnered with the German Paralympic Team competing at the 2018 Winter Paralympics, which begin on the 9th of March.

tons of airfreight as well as 48 standard ocean containers have been transported to PyeongChang by DB Schenker on behalf of athletes, media representatives and sponsors from Germany alone. Added to this are large-scale consignments for customers from numerous other countries including the winter sports powerhouses Switzerland, Austria and Norway

Under its product name DB SCHENKERsportsevents, DB Schenker’s logistical support is by no means limited only to athletes from Germany. Its national companies in Switzerland as well as in Austria, Norway and Belgium have all been appointed official logistics partners of their various National Olympic Committees. The assignment on behalf of the Swiss team is quite substantial as their delegation of around 400 people is one of the largest at the Olympics. One of the challenges faced by the Swiss company was to transport the two-man and four-man bobsleighs in purpose-made containers via airfreight; another consignment included Swiss specialties like muesli to ensure that the athletes would not miss out on their creatures comforts some 8,000 kilometers away from home in South Korea.

Special solution: the transport and workshop container, which DB Schenker custom-made for Austria’s biathletes, will also be used in PyeongChang. Photo: DB Schenker
Special solution: the transport and workshop container, which DB Schenker custom-made for Austria’s biathletes, will also be used in PyeongChang. Photo: DB Schenker

The size of Norway’s team can be deduced from the number of sports bags transported by DB Schenker: 404 in total. On behalf of Austria’s biathlon team, DB Schenker custom-built a container equipped with ski racks, work benches and a ventilation system, which is used at the World Cup races in Europe as well as at the Olympic competitions. Although Belgium is hardly a powerhouse in alpine sports, DB Schenker nevertheless prides itself on being a partner to the country’s 19 athletes, the largest delegation to have been sent to the Olympics for decades. The company has also received orders from Italy and Slovakia.


Preparing for an event like PyeongChang requires intense planning. “We began with rough plans around 15 months ago, and we’ve been in the crucial phase for the last eight months,” says Schmidt. This included making advance visits to the various sporting venues or figuring out which goods have to be dispatched at what time and by what method of transport, whether by aircraft or by ship. “By its very nature, bulky equipment is best transported as ocean freight. But athletes can’t necessarily do without particular items of equipment for the six-week duration of the journey.” From the German perspective, there is an additional challenge: DB Schenker is also the “Exclusive Logistics Partner of the German House in PyeongChang 2018” and has a number of media representatives and sponsors among its customers.


Whether it is a case of transporting office technology for media clients or sports equipment, the process of clearing freight through customs is extremely complex. “After all, it’s not every day that the authorities have to deal with an event of this scale,” says Schmidt. So it’s just as well that DB Schenker has logistics experts based in South Korea, who ensure that everything runs smoothly. “We work closely with our colleagues on location, and part of their responsibility is managing onward transportation from the port or the airport.”

DB Schenker transported the bulging sports bags – 458 in total – to South Korea in time for the opening ceremony

Photos: Matthias Aletsee

Even so, Schmidt and four colleagues from Germany will be there prior, during and after the Games. “Our customers deserve to have contact persons on site!” One of the reasons is that much work remains to be done immediately after the official opening ceremony, like transporting the athletes’ equipment to the various competition venues. They will be joined by DB Schenker “delegates” from Switzerland, Austria and Norway – as well as from Great Britain, France, Japan and the USA. “Although we are not partners to athletes from these four countries, we have been tasked with providing logistical support for their sponsors and media. And as delegates, of course we support each other on an international basis.”


Apart from relying on its well-oiled network, DB Schenker can also draw on a wealth of experience. The company employs a host of experts around the world who have been organizing and managing the logistics behind major sporting competitions and other events for years. In Germany, the company’s dedicated sports team was first launched in the year 2000. Its first assignment was the Olympics in Sydney. The 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang will be Stephan Schmidt’s sixth Olympics, and although he has honed his skills from one Olympics to the next, the Games still fascinate him. “They have a unique flair!” So it’s just as well that the next Olympics are already around the corner: Tokyo 2020.

Three questions for Johannes Rydzek

The 26-year-old Nordic combined skier, who competes in cross-country skiing and ski-jumping, has ranked among the world elite for years. In 2017 and 2015 he won six World Championship titles, three in individual and three in team events. He boasts two Olympic medals in team events: silver in 2014 and bronze in 2010.

What are your hopes for PyeongChang?

I’m incredibly thankful for what I was able to achieve in the last season. That’s why winning a gold medal would be fantastic, but I won’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t work out. All I can say is: there’s a chance of making it to the podium, and I have the self-confidence to give it my all.


What role do logistics play for top athletes like yourself?

At major events like the Olympics, in particular, every last detail needs to be right. We can’t afford to worry about whether our equipment and our kit arrive safely. But up to now that’s always worked well – and that’s what DB Schenker guarantees.


What fascinates you most about the Olympics?

It’s great knowing that the entire world is watching so many different winter sports at the same time. And the atmosphere at the competition is really cool. When so many athletes are gathered in one place, you automatically get to know people and make friends – that’s something I really enjoyed at my last two Olympics.

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