Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pac-Man Gobbles Up More M-Dots

The World Triathlon Corporation, owner of the "Ironman" and "Ironman 70.3" labeled events just announced a series of Olympic distance triathlons to be held under the moniker "5150." Why they chose 5010 as opposed to 50.1 is beyond me. I guess they figure it sounds grander and cooler. In addition to adding a number of new events and an annual championship in Clearwater similar to the Ironman 70.3 series, they also incorporated several well established Olympic races into the series. Some of the existing Olympic races included are as follows: Miami International Triathlon (Miami, Fla.) in mid-March; St. Anthony’s Triathlon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) in late April/early May; Washington D.C. Triathlon in mid-June; and Nautica NYC Triathlon in early August.

There are others, and I assume that these were successful established races on their own. I note that there are also several new events that are listed specifically as 5150 events. Thus, WTC is clearly bringing more to the table than simply gobbling up other successful races. However, it feels like a Pac-Man game to me. I'm sure that this will excite the professional athletes as it will give them more opportunities to win more prize money. I also bet that the companies owning the acquired events are also thrilled. I often think that this is the formula for a lot of triathlon and marathon events. Get big and successful in the hopes that a larger entity will come buy you out at a profit. It's the American way. The Rock n' Roll Marathon series comes to mind.

However, I'm not sure this is in the best interests of the average athlete. A series in which big prize money has to be gathered to pay the pros usually means higher entry fees for the rest of us. It also seems to take away from the local feel of an event. Locally owned, locally operated events create local pride. I'm not sure we'll lose the local pride in these events, but they will no longer be simply local events. They will be WTC events.

Now, I've done several WTC events. They put on top notch events. They make great official gear that we as athletes and consumers of such goods like: hats, shirts, mugs, jackets. You name it, they've got it to sell to us. But I always tried to balance out my WTC and non-WTC events. I like the feel of a locally run event. Whether its a big city marathon like Chicago, New York, or Boston, or a small local race like everyone's home town 4th of July or Thanksgiving Day races. These events feel like they belong to these cities and our local towns. Yes, I know those big city marathons are like corporate giants themselves, but they are not all owned by the same company. They still feel like they reflect the spirit of the locale.

I'm not sure that ownership or association with WTC will kill that sense of the local for these existing events; but deep down inside, I don't trust a growing monopoly in any field. I hope in gobbling up all the class events in the sport, that WTC doesn't unintentionally eat its young. This sport is expensive enough as it is. Will race fees jump to pay for the "Ironman" label? Will new entrants to the sport shy away from these series events with higher fees? Only time will tell if, overall, this is good for the sport.

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