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How Canada sends 313 Olympians, hundreds of support staff and comforts of home to Rio

How Canada sends 313 Olympians, hundreds of support staff and comforts of home to Rio

Posted by PanamericanWorld on July 29, 2016

It’s like an enormous puzzle, with moving pieces of varying shapes and sizes.

 Here’s the challenge: Transport 313 athletes, roughly 375 support staff and 165 mission team members, plus all of their equipment, nutrition and medical supplies, from Canada to Rio De Janeiro in time for the Olympic Games.

It’s a massive co-ordination effort, which includes flights for the entire delegation, plus the shipping of 25 air freight containers (18 x 40-feet) full of supplies.

The goal of the Canadian Olympic Committee, of course, is to get the athletes, coaches and staff to Rio safely and comfortably — and to make sure they’re safe and comfortable once they get there.

That can certainly be difficult when you are dealing with volleyball players who are close to seven-feet tall.

“In my experience in London, they did a fantastic job with what can already be a crazy and hectic experience, even not around the Olympics,” high jumper Derek Drouin says about travelling for competitions. “They did a very good job of organizing that and we have everything all set up in advance. It’s a pretty smooth process.”

The athletes travel economy for the most part, taking advantage of their 50K status with Air Canada, a sponsor of the Canadian Olympic Committee, to get some perks, such as an additional baggage allowance, seat upgrades and access to airport lounges. Air Canada also provides dedicated check-in areas for athletes and enhanced meals with extra protein to help them prepare for the Olympics.

Once they arrive at the Olympics, the athletes are assigned single beds in dormitory style apartments in the athletes’ village — which can be an adventure, to say the least. The Rio organizing committee has struggled to finish the apartments and this week the Australian Olympic Committee refused to let its athletes move in due to clogged toilets, caved-in ceilings, exposed wiring and significant leaks. Work crews have been busy trying to fix the problems before more athletes arrive.

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Overholt says mission staff has dealt with some of those “operational challenges” and are “generally satisfied with the village accommodations.”

“Honestly, I’m not worried about it at all,” Canadian steeplechase runner Erin Teschuk says. “These people are knowledgeable and I trust them. I don’t think they would send us down there if it wasn’t going to be adequate accommodations. From what I’ve seen, I think the village looks, honestly, awesome to me.”

These kinds of reports are nothing new to the athletes.

Before every Olympics, stories of poor conditions intensify. In Sochi in 2014, the early reports from the athletes’ village were of cold showers, discoloured water, missing door handles and the infamous self-locking bathroom door that forced American bobsledder Johnny Quinn to bust his way out.

Those concerns died down quickly as the Games began.

“You understand that it can’t be the comforts of a hotel but I think in general they do a pretty good job,” says Drouin, who will be competing in his second Olympics. “Unless it’s your very first time, and nobody has warned you at all, you know what to expect and you know the things you can bring to make it a more enjoyable experience.”

Most athletes bring some of their own comforts, such as pillows, favourite foods and supplements.

At the athletes’ village, those over six-foot-two are provided with extendable beds, and all the rooms are equipped with blackout blinds on the windows, WiFi, air conditioning, and a social space.

“It’s a unique experience,” says Drouin, who is 6-foot-5.

“When I was in the athletes’ village in London it was about the shortest I’ve ever felt in my life just walking around all the volleyball players and basketball players. The beds and most things in the village are standard size, but they have bed extenders for people who need that or some other sort of accommodation. I didn’t feel that I needed it, but there were certainly a lot of people who were much taller than I was and I’m sure they took advantage of it.”

The COC has created an additional lounge space in the village where athletes can relax and socialize with healthy snacks shipped from Canada.

“In general, in the villages I’ve been to they’ve done a good job of working with what they have and making it a decent experience,” Drouin says. “I’ve never been in a situation where it was difficult to sleep or get comfortable. It’s just fine.”

Ian Walton/Getty Images

Ian Walton/Getty ImagesWith an Olympic and world championship medal, Derek Drouin is the among the most accomplished athletes on Canada’s team.


Canada Olympic House, in the Leblon area of Rio, serves as an oasis for family and friends of Olympians in competition. The athletes can go there and socialize with one another and their families and friends, celebrate medals and generally feel like they are not in a foreign country at all.

Health and safety is obviously a big priority for members of the Canadian contingent and Rio is a notoriously unsafe place, with street crime, gun violence, poor sewage disposal and a variety of scary viruses making headlines. However, high-level athletes are used to travelling, training and competing in places around the world with similar issues.

“Everything always kind of changes with the Olympics,” Drouin says. “There’s always more worries here and there but in general everyone I know who has ever gone to Brazil has been warned. You should go see this and have fun, but don’t go out at night and don’t carry around too much cash and things like that. We’re getting those kinds of warnings and also to be careful where we go to eat because they have different health regulations.”

Everything comes with the subtext: As long as you stay in the Olympic village, you should be fine.

“It’s a nice safe place both for public safety but also in terms of health and just avoiding any distractions or inhibitors. Just stay in the Olympic village until after your competition is done and you should be all right. Every once in a while, people get a little bit sick in the village just because there’s a lot of different germs from all over the world coming into one small place, but in general you are pretty safe eating the food, you’re pretty safe from any sort of dangers.”

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