From torches to arena floors, UPS delivers

Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:00am EDT
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By Lynn Adler

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four days before the Olympic Opening Ceremony, in London's historic Horse Guards Parade courtyard where throngs will have just celebrated Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, United Parcel Service will ship in to set up scoreboards, umpire chairs, sand rakes, nets and other fixtures for beach volleyball.

The world's largest parcel delivery company, known to build brand awareness with relief services after disasters in Japan and Haiti and by flying an orphaned polar bear from Alaska to a Kentucky zoo, is sole logistics provider for the 2012 Games.

UPS expects to handle 30 million items -- everything from boxing gloves to beds for the athletes' village, relay torches and drug-testing samples to broadcast equipment.

That is nearly 60 percent more items than four years ago in Beijing, where the Chinese government took a more hands-on role.

Bloopers before billions of people would threaten a public relations blow that could hit profit, marketing experts say. But gains from networking, and showing competence at pulling off such a complex event, could pay dividends long after the Games.

UPS's business is a logical fit for the event, making its sponsorship more valuable, said Ronald Goodstein, professor of marketing at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business in Washington, D.C.

"It's a huge PR nightmare if it doesn't work," he said, "but they will cover their butts" with trial runs and back-up systems to avert any very public crises.

"The logistics of an Olympics is a nightmare, and we make it easy," is the message UPS will impart widely with a smooth run.   Continued...

Mattresses for the London 2012 Olympics village and crowd control chairs for Olympic officials are stored in the UPS warehouse in Tilbury, southern England February 27, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris