“We’ll be carrying Team USA for at least the next decade, hopefully many decades to come,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. The airline in the past sponsored the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and in Salt Lake City in 2002, both cities where it has major hubs.
Delta unveiled the special paint job for the Team USA plane at an event Friday morning hosted by Olympians Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, and featuring Delta’s “athlete ambassadors” and Olympians.
Hundreds of Delta employees gathered in a hangar at Delta’s Atlanta hub at Hartsfield-Jackson for the event, which aired live on The Today Show on NBC — the network that broadcasts the Olympics. A key benefit for Delta from the sponsorship deal is access to advertising tied to the Olympic and Paralympic Games on NBC.
The Delta event comes after the White House earlier this month announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang,” where the treatment of Uyghurs has prompted U.S. sanctions. U.S. athletes will still compete, but the move means Biden will not send the customary delegation of dignitaries.
Delta chief marketing & communications officer Tim Mapes said he doesn’t see the diplomatic boycott affecting the reach of the Beijing Olympics. “Our interest is in the athletes,” he said.
The Olympic jet, one of 37 A330-900s the airline is gradually adding to its fleet, will begin flying Dec. 18 on international routes.
Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic and restrictions on travel to China, Delta isn’t operating its regular flights to the country. As a result, the airline will operate charter flights from Los Angeles to Beijing starting in late January to take Team USA athletes to the Olympics.