Just over a year from now Penticton will take its place on the global sporting stage when the city hosts the ITU World Multisport Championships Festival.
The 10-day event in its new format is expected to draw an estimated 5,000 world-class athletes according to officials at Monday’s event launch and news conference at the Hooded Merganser.
“It means a lot to Triathlon Canada,” said Sheila O’Kelly, Triathlon Canada board member. “It means a huge amount to me personally. When Michael (race director Michael Brown) first called me I couldn’t think of any other community in the world that could be better suited to be the host of the 2017 World Multisport Championships.
“Everybody in the world in triathlon has heard of Penticton and for us now to be able to take Penticton and bring that to the world, that’s hugely important.
“Multi-sport athletes and triathletes in general are the ultimate in sport tourists and we bring them here to the most amazing community of tourism that you can get anywhere.”
Brian Mahony, director of Global Projects, International Triathlon Union and other panel members including Brown and Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit lauded the positive financial impact on the region.
“I think it will be great for the city, get a lot of exposure and these people will come back I guarantee you, once they see the Okanagan,” said Mahony. “We’ve had a fantastic response (from athletic foundations).”
Brown estimated as many as 150 to 160 countries may be represented.
“Be assured this event will impact a lot of people and businesses in the city,” he said. “There will be a huge economic benefit to Penticton because of the 10-day festival.”
Added Penticton Mayor Jakubeit: “I think the residual impact for the following years is many of these athletes coming back to Penticton to train or compete in the Challenge Series.”
The multisport events include long-distance triathlon, cross triathlon, duathlon and aquathon and athletes will have an opportunity to qualify at a number of events including the August Challenge Penticton.
This is the first time all four sports have been held in one location at the same time.
Brown is expecting about 1,200 participants in this year’s Challenge and registration is currently at about 60 per cent of that.
One of the professional athletes who is particularly looking forward to the competition is Penticton’s Jeff Symonds, an Ironman and Challenge champion.
“It just seems like an excellent opportunity as an athlete, you always want to win a world title and to have that opportunity here, it’s like I feel I’m the Penticton Vees and having a home game,” he said. “You’ve got that crowd that energy and good things happen when you’ve got that.”
Symonds and O’Kelly agreed the event will generate a lot of interest, especially among young people.
“When you see people out there that you know, you just start to believe that it’s possible and start to think you can compete for a world title and be the best in the world at something and that, more than anything, is going to be the true value,” he said.