The challenge: The Australian Olympic Team demonstrated success, tenacity and team spirit throughout the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Yet the ever-changing complexities of COVID-19 restrictions, which were still in place when the Games were moved to 2021, meant getting more than 1,000 athletes, officials and essential equipment to Tokyo was going to be a multi-faceted challenge.

The solution: Reed & Mackay’s ‘can-do’ approach and expertise in travel management ensured smooth passage for the athletes and officials, allowing them to stay focused on their sport and winning medals.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games required one of the most significant logistical and people management challenges the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) had ever undertaken.

The compact schedule of the Olympic Games meant large volumes of athletes and team members had to travel simultaneously. More than 340 athletes and officials from Australia’s swimming, rowing, water polo, gymnastics, hockey, shooting, tennis, sailing and table tennis teams were heading to Tokyo, with one single Saturday being the busiest day of travel, with 274 departures.

industry partnerships help drive success

Reed & Mackay tapped into its contacts across multiple airlines, to ensure safe passage for everyone with little to no disruptions, organising the teams to travel on a combination of charter flights from Darwin, Rockhampton and Cairns, as well as commercial flights from Australia, Europe and USA. And there was further travel co-ordination for 44 travellers from the rugby and shooting teams.

In addition to ensuring the athletes and officials arrived safely and on time, Reed & Mackay was also trusted to move some of the sporting equipment the Australian team required for the duration of the Games. For example, the cycling team needed to take three tonnes of baggage, while the athletics team travelled with pole vaults that were more than five metres long – not the standard, every day luggage airlines are used to.

While the athletes competed at the highest level, these Olympic Games were held during some of the toughest COVID restrictions of the pandemic.

Reed & Mackay Team Leader Operations, Sydney, Darren Stephenson, was on the ground supporting the AOC and Team Australia at the Olympic Village. Stephenson explains how, when challenges were faced, the strong and trustful working relationships Reed & Mackay has with both the client and suppliers led to much-needed swift solutions.

“At these Olympic Games, as soon as a team or athlete won a medal or were knocked out, they had 48 hours to depart Tokyo. The AOC changed that to 24 hours, in case of any unexpected challenges, so there would be 24 hours leeway; speed was essential,” Stephenson says.

“One particular test was getting whole teams home through all the restrictions, because you couldn’t book any flights until the last minute. You would then have a squad of players that needed to fly out the next night. And, in some cases, such as for the football team, not everyone was going back to Australia – some of the squad play for English or German teams so we had to make sure all their travel arrangements complied with the COVID restrictions in place for those destinations too.  

“Another emergency we faced was when Team Australia athlete Genevieve Gregson née LaCaze was injured and, as well as ensuring she was on a flight back to Australia in time for surgery, we needed to get her partner back to Australia from the UK within the quarantine regulations.”

Fortunately, thanks to Reed & Mackay’s expert travel arrangements, the Australian teams arrived and departed from the Games smoothly and trouble-free.

Reed & Mackay delivered first-class travel management and support across the much-disrupted Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, including through the return of quarantine complexities across multiple entry times and entry points. Across the 14 days, with six quarantine jurisdictions and more than 1,000 Australians travelling, there was not one COVID infection, making the experience a huge success.

“These challenges were huge, but thanks to a massive team effort between Reed & Mackay, the AOC and our suppliers, we did it!” Stephenson adds.

Travel experts for large-scale sporting events

Reed & Mackay is well versed in successfully managing the Australian Olympic Team’s complex travel arrangements. The TMC has been managing them since the Winter Games in Sochi in 2013 and, during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Reed & Mackay tackled a number of challenges that arose while getting the team to Brazil.

On that occasion, one airline revoked its agreement to transporting a set of canoes at check-in. And another airline’s strike action delayed the equestrian team. While that airline re-accommodated the team, it planned to send the riders ahead of the vets – and the team wanted to travel together as it was integral the vets arrived to aid the horses through the quarantine process. By employing its good relationship with the airlines in question, Reed & Mackay was able to speedily resolve the issues. The TMC ensured riders and vets alike could travel together, canoes were transported, and missed flights and weather delays were effectively dealt with to limit their effect and disruption on the team.

MANAGING TEAM Australia’s future travel arrangements

The positivity, persistence and expertise displayed by Reed & Mackay and embraced by the AOC made for a strong and, ultimately, successful relationship. Reed & Mackay’s commitment to the AOC continues, as the TMC will be supporting Team Australia through the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games and beyond.

“Thank you Reed & Mackay for your investment, your commitment and, most importantly, for being part of the Olympic family that made the Games happen,” AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll said.

hear from the athletes

Watch the videos of Team Australia team mates Genevieve Gregson née LaCaze and Rachael Lynch, where they speak about how Reed & Mackay helped get them to and from Tokyo safely and securely.