The collective hooray of excitement last Thursday (Oct. 11) at the official announcement that Whistler will host Ironman Canada next year still has us feeling mostly warm and fuzzy inside.
This is tremendous news, from an economic perspective, which will drive visitation and room nights for the resort next year.
This past August was a strong month for the resort, improving on room nights significantly from last year. Adding Ironman on Aug. 23, 2013 into a month with Crankworx, the Bull’s Eye Canadian National Barbecue Championships and maybe another Wanderlust, will make for a record-setting month. By record setting we mean crazy busy, in both good and crowded ways.
For the following four years, Ironman returns to Whistler in the month of July. With so many summer events already happening in August, the move to July will be positive in the sense that it will balance out the summer numbers.
Initially, us Questionables couldn’t grasp how the event would manage to find space for the 3.86-kilometre swim, 180-km cycling route and a full marathon distance run. But the proposed route seems to take the first step of tackling those logistics. The inclusion of Pemberton is a great addition to the course, as we are fairly certain Squamish doesn’t want any more traffic headaches in the summer to deal with (they always seem cranky about the GranFondo).
But before the glow wears off, let’s take a moment to realize there are some more significant hurdles to overcome. Transportation for participants and spectators to the sites like Alta Lake and spectator areas will have to be addressed.
Let’s not forget the fact this course crosses an active railway line. We hear CN is in the loop, but stopping train traffic for 16 hours may turn out to be a significant hurdle.
Next on the list are volunteers. This event needs 3,000 volunteers in the middle of the busiest month of the summer. Tourism officials contend if Whistler can find the volunteer spirit to host the Olympics, it can handle an Ironman.
A nice thought, but there are fundamental differences between an event like the Olympics, which brings the world to our doorstep in a celebration of amateur sport, and Ironman, which is a corporate triathlon.
The final issue that will have to play itself out is the politics surrounding why Ironman left Penticton in the first place and the fact that city has a competing event the very same day.
Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton called the scheduling of Whistler’s Ironman “predatory” to several news outlets last week. He also said he looks forward to going “head-to-head” with Whistler to attract triathletes for each event.
What really gives us pause is the unknown part of this story. What’s the deal with Ironman and Penticton parting ways after 30 years? Speculation is it was over money, but there is always more to the story than meets the eye.
Hopefully, while Whistler was clamoring to win the bid, it also did its research and has a clear conception of what it has gotten the resort into, because there is no getting out for another five years.