There is no doubt that the city of East London is perfectly capable of hosting various sporting events on a large scale.
Geographically the city is pretty central, almost equidistant from Durban, Cape Town and Bloemfontein while the city boasts ideal surfing, deep sea and river fishing, swimming and rowing facilities.
Our golf courses, bowls greens and cricket, rugby and soccer stadiums are in general excellent condition. A big worry is the Jan Smuts stadium which requires a major overall to be up to standard again.
Various schools events are always well supported, with water polo and swimming top of the list.
The recent Ironman 70.3 held on the last Sunday of January, garnered a host of plaudits from contestants from near and far. The swim-cycle-run tri-event appears to attract an increase of competitors each year, a good number from overseas as well.
Consider the implications economically of the Ironman.
With the competitors themselves, seconds, family members and supporters numbering possibly well over 5 000, the weekend event generates a massive turnover of between R6 and R8-million over a three or four-day period. These monies were spent on accommodation at various bed and breakfast establishments, hotels, pubs and restaurants and the like.
It costs a fair amount for three meals, food and drink, although a good number of the athletes in training eat rather less than most of the population.
A spokesperson for The Hampton, a bed-and-breakfast establishment in Quigney, said that most of the competitors had booked last year as well as this year, and had already booked for the 2020 Ironman.
“We’re full up for next year’s Ironman already,” she said. “Most book in on the Friday and leave on the Monday morning, so we’re pretty busy,” she said.
Ian Mackay of Garden Court Hotel stated that his group was one of the sponsors of the race and they hosted all the professional athletes as well as the race organisers.
“Some of the organisers were here for two weeks before the race, others came the Sunday before,” said Mackay.
“Most athletes arrived on the Friday but the pros came earlier,” he added.
Mackay said that the visitors tended to support various restaurants and eating houses around the city as well as using their restaurant facilities.
Mackay agreed that East London was an excellent venue for sporting events.
“Yes, sports tourism is huge here and we support all these events, whether it be the Ironman, water polo, the Surfers Marathon, the Buffalo Regatta, and so on.”
So hats off to all the organisers of the Ironman 70.3, 2019 edition. It is sure to grow in strength in the years ahead, and continue to contribute magnificently to the economics of the city.
By: Peter Martin
Photos from Ironman South Africa