We caught up with the head of administration and logistics for the World Class Programme, Sarah Armstrong, to discuss how much work has gone into planning for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and how this process compares to other competitions.

What does your job involve?

As the head of administration and logistics, I am responsible for equine logistics for the Olympic and Paralympic teams for Rio 2016. I oversee the movement of the kit, feed and forage and when I am in Rio I will be working with a wider team to support the human and equine athletes at the Olympic village and at the stables in Deodoro.

How long have you spent preparing for Rio? 

We started preparing for the games in earnest in 2013 however initial planning for the event began as soon as it was announced that Rio would be the host. This will be my third Olympic Games. I have found the devil is in the detail; the smallest things can make the biggest difference. To this end I have found this role involves good project management and securing good relationships with stakeholders.

How do the horses find flying?

Generally they travel pretty well. A lot of the horses, in particularly the showjumping horses, are used to flying a number of times each year and they travel business class in wide jet stalls. When they are in the air the grooms will check the horses very regularly giving them their hard feed , tempting them to get their heads down to eat their forage and of course they try to keep them as well hydrated as possible  during the flight.

How does planning for an Olympic and Paralympic Games differ from planning towards other competitions?

For any away Games there is the challenge of moving a lot of freight and so this takes a lot of planning and especially for Rio due to the high level of biosecurity, the import of feed and forage has been complex and the process operationally has not been without its challenges.  

With all the disciplines you have to ensure that each of the human and equine athletes are given as much support as possible to make them feel comfortable at competition and during the Games this is paramount.  We try to leave no stone unturned.

What was the experience like in Beijing?

Beijing (Hong Kong) was again a very different Games, no two are alike. For Hong Kong I ran four Pre Export Quarantine venues and all the horses travelling were subject to 7 days isolation pre travel. The rules and regulations around this were stringent and we even had the Hong Kong authorities come over to check all was in order prior to the horses being admitted.

What do you find most challenging about your position and what do you enjoy the most?

I adore a challenge and keeping all the moving pieces heading in the right direction keeps me well motivated, working with teams from different nations is interesting and when you see all the kit set up and horses happy in the environment it makes it all worthwhile. The special bit for me is getting to know the horses and their characters and supporting the very hardworking grooms without whom none of this would happen.

The atmosphere and the cultural differences make it so exciting and the vibrancy of Brazil is sure to make this year’s games one of the best yet.

Do you get any unusual requests?

We like to make our athletes feel as comfortable as possible and create a “home from home atmosphere” at competitions and so for Rio we will be taking things such as our own tea and milk for the staff to provide home comforts!  We also take a teapot to make the most of a “brew”. For Rio we have a newly converted container which has air con, bean bags, drinks stations and provides a quiet environment for the athletes to focus prior to competition. The individual needs of the horses is very extensive as they each have their own feed and supplements; we have shipped approximately 5 tonnes of feed to Rio along with Marksway Horsehage and imported hay from the USA to the UK for the horses to transition onto before flying .