Getting the dirt on the Athens

Getting the dirt on the
Athens Olympics

The Greeks have words for it — “import duties” — which apply to the dirt being sent from the U.S. to create the two baseball venues for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Just as baseballs used in the National and American Leagues must be rubbed with special mud before being used, so the red clay used for the home plate area, pitcher's mound, base paths and warning track is available only in the U.S. and has to be shipped to Greece for the games.

“It's special infield dirt, with a special red color they cannot manufacture in Athens,” explains Richard Todorovic, operations manager, Schenker Global Sports (www.schenker.com). “We had to airfreight it into Athens to be in time for their trial events. The remainder moved by ocean. Because of the need to meet deadlines, we've had to airfreight material and equipment from several suppliers.”

Schenker is the official logistics pro-vider for the U.S. Olympic Committee, which means it ships everything the U.S. Olympic Team needs to move. It has a dual role, being the official logistics provider for the Athens Games, as well.

The company boasts experience in handling logistics for sports events of Olympic size. The Athens games are the company's third Olympics in a row as official logistics provider, and it will serve the same function for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, in 2006, and Beijing, China, in 2008.

Beside moving sports equipment, Schenker Global Sports serves media needs, moving communications equipment and the like. For the Athens Olympics, it serves NBC TV, which is providing U.S. coverage, as well as the Associated Press, and numerous large metropolitan newspapers and weekly news magazines.

Too, Schenker Global Sports moves product that Olympic sponsors need at the varied venues. Energy bars, for instance, have to move packed on dry ice.

Most large shipments move in directly from the shipping facilities — either in full container loads or as airfreight. For shippers with a variety of suppliers, Schenker consolidates at one point for final movements.

Schenker has built a warehouse in Athens exclusively for the games. It has 50 people presently in Athens, collected from the worldwide Schenker network. Their stay in Greece will last from three to six months, depending on their responsibilities. Schenker Global Sports has representatives at every venue, as well as at Greek Customs and the Athens Airport.

“We are able to supply labor, storage, cranes — anything within the scope of logistics,” Todorovic says. “Being the logistics provider for Athens and then Turin — they are only 16 months apart — we are already working on the next games. Instead of returning the freight to the U.S., many of our customers will just ship it to Turin.”

Greece seems to be the only country in the European Union that does not permit electronic Customs clearance. Everything is handled manually with paperwork. Todorovic uses an ATA Carnet to move products through customs. According to the U.S. Council for International Business (www.uscib.com), ATA Carnets are “customs documents for temporary duty-free, tax-free import of professional equipment, commercial samples and goods displayed at trade shows.”

“We always prefer Carnets because it's an easy way to clear Customs,” Todorovic explains. “It's a merchandise passport. With a Carnet, you walk through, they stamp it and you're out. Otherwise it can take between two and five days to clear a shipment.”

As for the baseball dirt, it's going to remain on the ground in Athens after the Olympic Games. LT

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August, 2004

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