Whistler will find out next week if it has been selected as the host community for the next Ironman triathlon to be held in Canada.
The resort made the short list of cities applying to host the event, which had previously been held in Penticton for 30 years.
Bids from Kelowna and Huntsville, Ont., also made the short list, while submissions from Victoria, Vernon, Kamloops and Calgary did not make the cut.
The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), which owns the Ironman brand, made the announcement of the three finalists in a Friday (Sept. 28) press release.
“The selection of the three Canadian communities was based on criteria as stated in the bid process that closed on Sept. 24,” said the release. “As part of the next phase in the selection process, Ironman staff will conduct in-depth visits to each finalist community.”
Whistler’s bid was a five-year proposal that came from an organizing committee made up of the municipality and Tourism Whistler (TW). When asked for details of the bid, TW officials said they were confidential, though the organizing committee released a statement on the selection process.
“We are looking forward to continuing our discussion with the World Triathlon Corporation, and we understand that the WTC will announce a final decision on Oct. 10,” said the statement.
This year’s Ironman in Penticton drew 2,800 participants. The events require huge courses, as the triathlons consist of a 3.86-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike leg and a 42.2-km run.
WTC officials previously told The Question that Whistler would make an ideal location for Ironman Canada, citing high hotel occupancy and experience with large-scale sporting events as positive. Shane Facteau, vice-president of operations for Ironman North America, reiterated that position in an email to The Question on Tuesday (Oct. 2).
“We’ve had great success tied to Olympic and/or similar styled communities,” wrote Facteau, pointing to past Winter Games hosts like Lake Placid and Lake Tahoe and the Quebec resort of Mont Tremblant as examples of where Ironman events have been staged.
However, Kelowna and Huntsville each have their own qualities as a host community, the most significant for Kelowna perhaps being its proximity to Penticton. Facteau said there would be some advantages of holding the event in Kelowna — located about 65 km north of Penticton — “based on history and athlete and supplier familiarity.”
“Obviously, there is a long-standing tradition of Ironman in the Okanagan Valley.”
Facteau also noted that at least 3,000 volunteers are required to successfully put on the triathlon.
Media reports indicated that Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray skipped the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Victoria last week and instead travelled to Florida to present his community’s bid to the WTC in person.
He defended the decision in an interview with the CBC.
“This is an economic development, not just a sports and recreation investment,” Gray told the network.
When asked for her thoughts on Gray’s trip to WTC headquarters, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was hopeful that wouldn’t have an impact on the bid selection.
“I don’t think it gave them a competitive advantage, at least I hope it didn’t,” said Wilhelm-Morden.