Temporary infrastructure secures clean water at 2020 Olympic Games
At the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, temporary water facility supplier MTD is providing safe drinking water to athletes, journalists, spectators and even horses. These are the sixth Olympics for which the company has supplied water.
MTD is supplying the water in Tokyo to mobile facilities for athletes, the media and visitors. The international company, headquartered in the Netherlands, is connecting kitchenettes and coffee makers at 25 Olympic sites, supplying water to flush toilets and disposing of wastewater. It has also supplied the Tokyo locations with 303 toilet pumps, 122 pumps supplying water to bars and 97 kitchen pumps. Mr Hans Verhoeven, Managing Director: ‘The big challenge is making sure that the volume of water is sufficient to flush the toilets during the breaks, the peak moments when the spectators go to the loo.’
MTD has built a solid reputation as a water supplier for the Olympics since Vancouver in 2010. Before the start of the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, MTD visited Tokyo for the first time to seek new business opportunities.
MTD's presence in Japan was by no means assured. The Dutch company was eventually chosen despite fierce competition and strict conditions. The run-up to the Games was no simple matter: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was postponed for a year. Because no major events were held in the Netherlands either in 2020, MTD was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Mr Verhoeven: ‘We already had dozens of people in Japan for the preparations. All the equipment was already there as well. Luckily the IOC made sure that we continued to be paid last year. If not for that, we would have gone bankrupt. In 2020 we lost 90% of our revenue.’
In 2017 MTD acquired a Japanese plumbing company, especially so as to be able to meet all the Japanese requirements. This was convenient for more than one reason, says Verhoeven. ‘Japanese and Dutch people are very different, in every way. To work well with the Japanese we need Japanese colleagues to build bridges.’
MTD has been providing water supply services at Dutch festivals like Lowlands and the Zandvoort racetrack. Clean water is flowing from taps at more and more big international events as well, like Expo in Dubai and COP26 in Glasgow. In countries like Japan where mains water is of good quality it can be used, but in other countries its quality is sometimes too low.
‘You can’t drink mains water in Qatar,’ says Mr Verhoeven. ‘We’re going to have to purify it during the World Cup next year. Then we’ll pump the purified water through pipes to tap points where spectators can fill their refillable bottles with drinking water. The international football association FIFA wants to do away with plastic bottles. Everyone at the World Cup must drink tap water. We will provide it.’
Water for refugee camps
Making a virtue of necessity, the company expanded its sphere of activity. After all, clean drinking water is essential for life everywhere. MTD now supplies water infrastructure to refugee camps, for example in El Paso in the United States. It also provides water for military encampments and temporary housing.
‘We started doing this because we had to, but it’s fine work and we’ve learned a lot from it,’ Mr Verhoeven says. ‘Obviously it’s very different than supplying water to a pop festival, an encampment or, with the Japanese in the coming weeks, at the Olympics.’