Special care for a special parcel

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It is not what you would call a conventional logistics operation, transporting a naked flame 22,000 miles around the world. After all if there is one thing you don’t want in an aeroplane, it is a burning torch.

However, the challenge has not daunted DHL which volunteered to transport the “Flame of Hope” for Law Enforcement Torch Run around the world as part of its sponsorship of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games. The summer games in Shanghai will host 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from more than 160 countries and regions. The “Flame of Hope” was lit on 29 June in the ancient Olympic tradition on the Sacred Site of Pnyx, facing the Acropolis of Athens, marking the beginning of the Torch Run. It went on to Cairo then London where it arrived on 4th July.

It was welcomed in Washington by President Bush on 25 July. Further stops include Seoul, Tokyo and Sydney. The final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run will include stops in Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, and 11 cities in China as well as the 19 districts of Shanghai, where it will be carried by more than 200 law enforcement officers from around the world.

Chris Muntwyler, managing director of DHL Express in the UK, points out that there are two challenges involved – the actual physical challenge and the emotional challenge and excitement of the project.

DHL is using its network of hubs and gateways to move the Flame of Hope across these cities using a combination of cargo planes and DHL vehicles or boats to ceremony locations in each host city.

Muntwyler points out that the flame is not a normal parcel – apart from safety issues, it has to be refuelled regularly as it has only a limited reservoir. Of course, the idea that the flame might go out is unthinkable.

And then there are the permissions that need to be obtained – there are the special safety approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority and the like while customs approvals have also had to be obtained.

The transport involves stringent security processes and screening. As with all shipments, the torch will be tracked and traced by DHL’s quality control centres, and will be scanned at each exit and entry point during the Torch Run.

Regulations require the flame to be transferred from the torch to a Miner’s Lamp. The lamp is filled with 150ml of standard lamp oil, which is in the form of liquid paraffin, approved by Civil Aviation authorities, and needs to be refilled every 24 hours. The lamp has been approved for transport on passenger airlines at every Olympic Games.

Muntwyler points out that every country on the route has different laws and import procedures that all need to be complied with.

However, it is clear, that for Muntwyler, the emotional challenges of the Special Olympics are the ones that offer most reward. “DHL thinks the Special Olympics needs special attention,” he says, pointing out that it highlights a different set of values such as inclusiveness, equal opportunities and diversity.

DHL is committed to a three year sponsorship of Special Olympics taking in both the 2007 games and the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, USA. A host of activities for DHL staff will be organised at a global level to spur volunteerism, involving employees to create public awareness to promote inclusion and acceptance. After the games, the 2007 flame will reside at DHL headquarters in tribute to the 2007 Special Olympics. In 2009, the “Flame of Hope” will again be lit in Athens and make its voyage by DHL to the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games in Idaho.

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