Jennifer Nelson (’16) is currently in South Korea working with the United States Olympic Committee in the Team Processing Center. Jen will be sharing her experience through this blog during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Team USA will consist of 243 athletes (135 men and 108 women). Team Processing is the first stop for athletes to receive their official gear. Each athlete will receive clothing and items from Ralph Lauren, Nike, OC Tanner, Procter and Gamble, Hoodie Footie, Alex & Ani and Swatch. Beyond getting their gear during Team Processing, athletes will have their headshot taking for their official credentials, work with the Team USA Social Media team and participate the USA Ambassadors Program where they will hear from past Olympians, receiving some media training and learn about Korean Culture.
Athletes fly into Incheon, South Korea (about an hour from Seoul) spend the night and go through Team Processing the next day. The entire process takes about 2-3 hours. After they have finished the processing procedure, the athletes will take a bus to PyeongChang which is about a three-hour ride. All of their bags are loaded onto the bus in a very organized process. Each athlete will receive two full duffel bags, one from Ralph Lauren, and one from Nike along with many other swag items.
Team Processing setup took place from January 25-30th. It was a very intense, yet organized and regimented. The amount of inventory we set up for both Ralph Lauren and Nike is equivalent to an entire store. A warehouse was converted into a stock room where empty aisles quickly became filled with product and gear for the athletes. The USOC sent several shipping containers full of pallets by boat to South Korea in October to make sure they arrived here on time. The first two days of setup required unloading all of the pallets and boxes and then opening and placing them in the correct area. The Nike and Ralph Lauren areas are divided in half and also into Men’s/Women. Each aisle has several pictures of the items that go in that row in a very systematic fashion.
Iconic fashion brand Ralph Lauren is supplying athletes with their outfits for the Opening and Closing Ceremony, which includes a $2600 heated red, white and blue Team USA jacket. They also receive sweaters, pants, boots, hats, and gloves. The belt even has a bottle opener on it. Nike is supplying the outfits Team USA athletes will wear on the podium. Each athlete also receives three pairs of Nike shoes along with 25 pieces of Nike apparel. These athletes will be representing Team USA in style.
I have spent all my time on the Ralph Lauren apparel side of Team Processing, working with about 10 other volunteers and staff. When the athletes come to us, we grab their pre-packed bag from the stock room. Each athlete submitted their sizes ahead of time, which helps us pack their bags. The athletes try on all of the Team USA branded clothes to make sure it fits properly and comfortably. In the dressing room, there are Ralph Lauren stylists making sure their outfits fit perfectly. If any of their opening or closing ceremony pants need to be tailored, Ralph Lauren has tailors from London to make same-day alterations.
At the end of each day, we spend a few hours preparing for the next day, by prepacking bags for the athletes who will be coming through the next day. It takes about 20 minutes to pack each athlete’s bag. Over the past few days, we have processed gear bags for Men’s Speed Skating, Men’s Luge, Women’s Ice Hockey, and Women’s Cross Country Skiing. It’s been remarkable to interact with the athletes and see how excited they are to be an Olympian after all their years of training. Team processing has been an unforgettable experience and I’m already hoping to be involved again for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.