15 February 2024

Preparations underway for Wollongong to host first of three elite world triathlon racing events

| Kellie O'Brien
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World Triathlon Championships Wollongong

A competitor in the Wollongong Triathlon Festival, which has a similar footprint to the World Triathlon Cup to be hosted in Wollongong in April. Photos: Supplied.

Wollongong is preparing for the first of three elite world triathlon racing events from April, which promise significant economic impact with a minimal footprint.

Destination Wollongong major events manager Jeremy Wiltshire said the series would include the pinnacle of the world triathlon annual calendar, the World Triathlon Championship Finals in 2025, with elite and age group athletes.

Jeremy said in addition the World Triathlon Cup on 20-21 April, which would serve as a test for the championship event, along with another World Triathlon event in 2026, were smaller but still elite globally broadcast events.

AusTriathlon joined forces with the NSW Government and Wollongong City Council to bring World Triathlon racing back to Australia, after last hosting the World Triathlon Championships Finals in 2018, and a World Cup in 2020.

“Having a three-year deal gives us a really nice pathway into the event and to learn some things in 2024 for the big one-off World Championships in 2025,” Jeremy said.

“It gives us a good chance in terms of proof of concept for a World Championship series, where you have an extra 5000 age group athletes from around the world descending on Wollongong.”

He said the triathlons came off the back of Wollongong hosting another international sporting event, the UCI Road World Championships in 2022.

“We hosted one of the largest scale outdoor sporting events in the world in 2022, but comparatively, this will have far less disruption and, once again, showcase Wollongong to the world,” he said.

“The event footprint for triathlon is comparatively very small.”

He said the city also hosted the Wollongong Triathlon Festival every year and these events would have a similar impact.

“For a broadcast product, they want a nice tight course with multiple loops – it’s not 270-km road closures,” he said.

“It’s minimal impact for the city for maximum gain in terms of an elite global event.”

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From a tourism perspective, he said the impact was significant.

“You can’t downplay the importance of having high profile events in Wollongong in terms of both stimulating the visitor economy and amplifying our reputation on the world stage,” he said.

“This event came about as a direct legacy of hosting the UCI championships – they called us the week after.

“I realise events aren’t great for everybody, but the net effects both during the event and in gaining a reputation for hosting world-class events is significant.”

Jeremy said while he recognised events caused disruption for some, the key would be good communication with businesses and residents.

World Triathlon Cup Wollongong

The economic impact of the events will be “very significant”.

“In terms of dealing with the event operator, we’ll be very mindful that they need to do the right thing by our constituents in regard to notification, and both the challenges and opportunities for the event,” he said.

“The notification process has to be on point to ensure that businesses, even if they don’t agree with us hosting the event, at the minimum, they know exactly what’s going on, when and where.

“This will be an event where some businesses will do extremely well out of it and others it either won’t affect or they may be adversely impacted for a small amount of time.”

Having previously worked for Triathlon Australia, he had seen how Wollongong had always been a hotspot for triathlon coaching in terms of expertise and geography, making it an ideal location for the swim, cycle and run events.

“You’ve got a beautiful combination in that you’ve got a sheltered harbour – it’s an open water swim, but it’s quite sheltered – and then you’ve got Lang Park next door to it, which is a great transition area,” he said.

“You can feed straight into a coastal bike and run that are both spectacular and reasonably easy to deliver from an operational standpoint.

“There’s about five days of racing for the World Championships 2025 and the World Cups are over a three- to four-day period.”

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He said the attractive aspect of this deal was the economic impact across the three years.

“Part of the deal with Triathlon Australia was for Wollongong to host their age group national championships across all three years,” he said.

“That brings probably an extra 900 athletes annually.

“That normally would go around from state to state each year, but it’s a real coup of this partnership that Wollongong gets to host it for three years running.”

He said the triathlon demographic was one of the best to bring to a city due to the events being big destination events where athletes and their families invested in exploring the region.

“They’ll come here the days before, train here, eat here, have a look around, experience the region,” he said.

“It’s a very significant event in terms of the economic impact.”

He said that also extended to accommodation, which was at a premium, with more than 1000 people in the region for the World Cups and more than 6000 for the World Championships across the week.

“For these global events, we’re lucky in that overflow can go to southern Sydney and regionally because we don’t have enough accommodation, which is something the city is addressing,” he said.

Previous hosts include London, Budapest, Beijing, Auckland, Chicago, Gold Coast, Abu Dhabi, with this year’s being Malaga in Spain.

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