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Ironman creates Covid-19 event safety guidelines in anticipation of resumption of racing

Professional triathlete Sarah Piampiano wears a face mask on a training ride (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images).

The Ironman Group has released a set of guidelines and principles designed to allow it to safely operate Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events within the expectations of public health entities around the world and mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

The mass participation event organiser said the guidelines are based on standards from the World Health Organisation and developed with guidance from the Ironman Global Medical Advisory Board.

The guidelines include five principles designed to mitigate the risk of contagion and keep event participants safe. However, the event organiser stopped short of saying when any of its events will resume.

The principles include plans to enhance hygiene at Ironman races by making hand sanitizer, hand washing stations and disinfectant wipes available around venues and to increase the cleaning of common venue areas. Staff and volunteers will be provided with face coverings and gloves in athlete-facing areas, while athletes will be provided with face coverings that they will be expected to wear around event venues and when collecting equipment.

Ironman indicated it will also institute measures to increase spacing between competitors and supporting personnel in transition areas, swim start areas and finishing lines. Non-essential race services, such as banquets will either be modified or eliminated.

The group said it will also seek to reduce or remove points of interaction as much as is safely possible between staff, athletes and volunteers, by redesigning racecourse zones, event villages and aid stations.

To help reduce levels of interaction even further, Ironman has developed an ‘Athlete Smart’ programme which encourages athletes to carry their own nutrition and hydration.

Finally, the event organiser said it will increase training and education in hygiene and safe support for staff and volunteers and plans to create a ‘Smart’ training resource for volunteers similar to the one already developed for athletes.

Read this: Ironman’s new investors will focus on content and virtual racing to unlock value

“Safety and community have always been the north stars of our organization, and while the decision around when to host races will ultimately depend on local communities and public health authorities, we have been working with experts and race stakeholders on how to conduct events in a post-COVID environment that allows for the economic, mental and physical benefits endurance events provide,” said Andrew Messick, president and CEO of the Ironman Group.

“We have created a plan for returning to racing and believe that these guidelines keep our athletes, volunteers, staff and communities safe.”

The group suggested that the implementation of the guidelines across Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events, when supplemented by the athlete-self-reliance recommendations, could help to eliminate up to 90 percent of the total touchpoints and interactions for athletes in a typical race.

“These guidelines are designed to help our communities with the return to healthy and safe racing so they can once again secure the benefits of hosting our races. These guidelines are crafted in close consultation with the Ironman Global Medical Advisory Board, our communities, and others who are an integral part of the race ecosystem,” said Messick.

In late March, Advance Publications, the American media company that owns Condé Nast and holds a significant shareholding in Discovery, announced it had entered into a definitive stock purchase agreement to acquire the Ironman mass participation business from the Wanda Sports Group. As part of the takeover, private equity company Orkila Capital will co-invest in Ironman.

The sale, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020. It is thought the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic was baked into the $730m (£591.33m/ €657.88m) valuation, some way short of Wanda’s reported $1bn asking price.

Just weeks before the deal was announced, the Beijing-based sports division of Dalian Wanda had warned of the ‘material adverse impact’ of Covid-19 on its mass participation business before taking out a $240m loan facility to refinance its debts.

Under Wanda, Ironman has tried to limit the financial impact of the pandemic by launching a virtual racing derivative which took place in early April.

SportBusiness understands Ironman’s new investors plan to build on this, irrespective of whether lockdown restrictions are in place, by using the latest generation of interactive and connected fitness applications like Zwift, Strava and Rouvy to deepen engagement with race participants and integrate the Ironman brand even more into their daily lives.