Owned by Wanda Group, the famous triathlon event finally comes to China
Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui province, aims to turn itself into a "city of sports" by hosting a world-class triathlon in October, and preparations for the event are going smoothly, the city government announced recently.
As of Sept 8, 1,500 athletes, 542 of whom are foreign competitors, had registered to compete in the 2016 Hefei Wanda City Ironman 70.3 to be held on Oct 16.
To attract more participants, the event will offer 50 qualifying positions for the 2017 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
An Ironman 70.3, also known as a "Half Ironman", is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation. The Florida-based company has a 91-percent share of the long-distance triathlon market. It organizes, promotes and licenses the Ironman Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, the 5150 series of triathlon races and several cycling, running and multisports events.
Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group purchased WTC last year and now brings its flagship event Ironman 70.3 to the world's most populous nation.
After the Hefei inauguration, Xiamen in Fujian province will host an Ironman 70.3 event in November.
The "70.3" figure refers to the total distance in miles (113 km) covered by competitors in the race, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
"We chose Hefei as the first host city because of its well-developed infrastructure and captivating natural scenery as well as the city government's great support for the race and global vision," Stefan Petschnig, Managing Director of IRONMAN China, said at the news conference for the Hefei triathlon.
"We hope to enable more triathlon lovers in China to experience the uniqueness of Ironman and inspire a wider range of people with 'ironman spirit' to challenge themselves," he added.
Hefei Wanda City, a tourism complex consisting of theme parks, a hotel and a shopping mall, is the main sponsor.
"It is not only a sports event, but also an event where people from diverse cultures from all over the world can meet and interact," said Zhang Dongnian, general manager of Hefei Wanda City. He continued: "Hosting Ironman 70.3 marks a milestone for the development of Hefei's sports industry and the city's ambition to become an international city. The event will definitely put Hefei in the spotlight."
Hosting Ironman 70.3 will set a high standard for Hefei's sports industry, but the long-term rewards mean that the challenge is worth taking on, according to the IRONMAN project leader with the Hefei city government.
The project leader added: "Through hosting this world-class sports event, we want to showcase our beautiful natural scenery, fast-developing urban infrastructure and innovative mindset to boost the city's development.
"We expect to create more sports fans in Hefei and develop the city's sports industry into a new engine for economic growth.
"We believe that 'a city of sports' will become Hefei's new motto, marking it out as a city that is dynamic and colorful."
The city government has improved the water quality of the lake where the swimming leg of the race will take place and will continue to undertake quality control measures as the event draws near.
A remarkable increase in the number of bookings for both rail and air tickets to Hefei and the number of reservations at the city's hotels since September shows how the triathlon has captured the public's imagination.
Travel agencies have also launched specially designed products to help tourists enjoy the event and explore the city.
The first Ironman Triathlon, which took place in Hawaii in 1978, was won by US Navy Communications Specialist Gordon Haller in 11 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds.