Big payoff on cards for world event in PE

70.3 Ironman to cost council R8m – but multimillion economic bonanza expected

Being named as the host city for the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championships, which is expected to generate a massive R300-million for the Nelson Mandela Bay economy, has been hailed as a major tourism coup for the metro.

As the host city, the municipality will pay R8-million to the organisers, with the money to be paid a year before the event.

Mayoral committee member Andrew Whitfield said yesterday the money, which would come from the 2017-2018 budget, still had to be approved.

Whitfield said a municipal task team to focus solely on the championships would be formed.

“Obviously, we will absorb certain security costs and cleansing costs, as we do with major events,” he said.

“We are proud to be the host city.

“If you compare the R8-million and any associated costs to the R300-million coming in, it is a sound investment for the metro.

“It is really important to remember that the athletes do not travel alone and they do not travel for just the weekend.

“They come [early] to acclimatise and, after the event, they need to rest and, generally, that’s when they spend money.”

The announcement that Port Elizabeth would host the event was made last month.

The city has also successfully hosted the Ironman African Championships for several years.

The 70.3 Ironman is predicted to attract 16 000 people – 6 000 more than the annual Ironman African Championships.

Asked if the city would have the capacity to accommodate all the visitors who would make their way to the Bay, Whitfield said he was confident the hospitality industry would come to the party.

“We have an abundance of accommodation in Nelson Mandela Bay,” he said.

“However, 16 000 people is a significant number.

“So we would be looking to engage with the hotel groups and bed-and-breakfast facilities to make sure that they are up to scratch and ready.”

Bay businesses had upgraded their venues to accommodate more guests when the city hosted 2010 Soccer World Cup matches and this capacity would come in handy.

“There will be an opportunity for home owners and also for neighbouring municipalities to benefit,” Whitfield said.

Ironman chief executive Andrew Messick, who is based in Florida in the US, promised visitors a spectacle like no other.

“We have a long history with Port Elizabeth and have demonstrated this through our partnerships with our team here [in PE] to create extraordinary racing experiences for our athletes.”

Asked why the decision to bring the global event to the metro had been made in the face of competition from cities like Nice in France and Budapest in Hungary, Messick said: “We had a lot of confidence that the team here would create a great atmosphere for our racers. I think it’s a fantastic city.

“It has the amenities of a big city but it also has the feel of a resort town – and there is also beautiful, wild country where you can run or ride your bike.”

EC Tours chief executive Jonker Fourie said a competition like the Ironman World Championships had lasting benefits and would put the city on the map.

“It will be a major boost to the economy as the athletes will be coming with their families and the experiences they have in the city will create lasting memories,” he said.

Speaking about the expected influx of visitors, he said: “It will definitely create more jobs, because hotels and restaurants will have to employ more workers to ensure guests are well looked after.”

Tourism expert Peter Myles said it was a massive coup for the city to host an event of this magnitude.

“World events of this nature encourage other event organisers to use Port Elizabeth as a host because it endorses the city’s capabilities of hosting these,” he said.

“Ironman gets global coverage, which is then broadcast repeatedly after the event has ended, so if we had to denote a value to television coverage, it’s massive.”

Social media also played a massive role in exposure as visitors, fans and competitors took many photographs, which they posted on their social networks, thus exposing Port Elizabeth further.

“PE needs to be experienced to be appreciated, and exposure from people who have never been here before is beneficial,” Myles said.

He said the event would definitely boost the economy.

“It benefits the economy as temporary employment will be created during the event, and furthermore, permanent jobs can also be created as the economy continues to grow.”

Meanwhile, Ironman SA operations director Paul Wolff said development athletes from the metro would also benefit from the event.

Wolff also oversees the Siyaphambili Triathlon Participation development programme.

He said five places in the competition would be made available for development athletes.

A majority of the athletes in the Siyaphambili programme are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Athletes who show a passion and commitment to the sport are taken under the wing of Wolff and coach Justin Butler, who work on any weaknesses the athletes may have, either in the swimming or cycling disciplines, to ensure they strengthen their competitiveness.

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