Serving the Olympic family
Written by Jonathan Powell
Transport sponsors are going all out to make the Games a success
Sponsors in the transport category will mobilise an unprecedented range of human resources to meet operational needs and make good on their pledge to deliver one of the most impressive Olympic Games in history.
For many visitors, the first impression of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be in the service they receive at airports around the world as they check in for flights with the Game's sole airline partner, Air China.
On the ground, in all the Olympic cities, Volkswagen will provide the vehicles for athletes, coaches, media, partners, VIPs and organising officials, steering them to their required destinations.
For Air China, management of the formidable task is being conducted by small teams of senior executives at the corporation's offices in Beijing, but the implementation is done by thousands, including pilots, cabin attendants, drivers and mechanics, hospitality crew, global sales and administration staff, public relations, marketing personnel and volunteers.
'Every one of our 30,0000 employees will be involved in a joint effort to fulfil our obligations to the Olympic Games,' said Zhang Chunzhi, secretary-general for Air China's Olympic project committee. 'We have a steadfast responsibility to do a good job and bring results not just in terms of sales and social and economic development, but in service satisfaction.'
Having seen its profits soar in the past four years since it was made a Games partner, Air China said it would invest 18 billion yuan (HK$20.05 billion) to expand capacity this year, including 11.88 billion yuan on aircraft and infrastructure improvements, upgrading its business and first class cabins, and the extensive training of staff. It recently moved to an impressive new 3,000-capacity head office near the Capital Airport. As a consequence of such growth, the company is hiring across the board.
The airline will operate more flights between Beijing and Europe during the Games, when Paris will become the second city in Europe after Frankfurt to receive two Air China flights a day making a total of 280 routes served, 72 of them international. Two dozen new planes will enter service this year, expanding the airline's fleet to 244.
A 15-person management team based at the new head office forms the nerve centre of the Olympic project and is responsible for innovation and delegation of tasks. The huge effort of implementation was down to every employee on the frontline, said Ms Zhang, a veteran of three decades in the company.
'People will be coming here from all over the world and our staff will carry the image of the Olympics in many foreign cities. It is a top-down commitment,' she said.
With the airport's new terminal three (T3) now in operation, the company has the ideal platform to show its capabilities.
The carrier has had, since the 100-day countdown stage, a complete list of the numbers of guests to expect. Ms Zhang said: 'We already have many contingency plans in place in case flights are delayed or there are any emergencies. Every occurrence has been anticipated. At Games time it will all be monitored from our Olympic Control Centre at T3.'
Services at the new terminal have been a major focus, such as the flow of passengers and baggage, easily accessible information, smooth check in, the quality of the business and first class lounges - all are designed to be world class.
The company will also provide ticketing and check in desks for all airlines at Olympic venues including the athletes village, the media village and at certain hotels.
'At these service centres guests will be able to book tours, change flight details and check in. This shows you our goal is much more than marketing the brand, we're fully committed to serving the Olympic family,' said Ms Zhang.
Of course the company's publicity machine has been in overdrive with images of the Air China fleet decorated in Olympic slogans arriving in cities around the world. The company's crew of PR staff has been dedicated to maximising exposure of its fleet.
'We decided that our aircraft were the key factor in publicity and wherever they have flown they have proved very popular. Many passengers have wanted their photos taken with the planes,' Ms Zhang said.
While Air China manages the influx, Volkswagen's workforce will be most visibly seen on the ground in Beijing and other Olympic cities, and along the torch relay route. The company has a fleet of 5,000 vehicles committed to the task and organisers will supply a driving crew of 10,000. Volkswagen and organisers will operate six depots in the Olympic cities for storing and servicing the vehicles, demanding the efforts of hundreds of mechanics and administrative staff.
This is the fourth in a five-part series on the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It is published once a month.