Preparation for one of the world’s most gruelling international competitions – the Ironman 70.3 World Championship – sparked controversy as councillors from poorer wards in Nelson Mandela Bay complained that the metro’s priorities were misdirected.
The councillors argued that the millions spent to host the event should instead be directed towards improving infrastructure in their wards – such as roads, lighting and building houses.
The ruling DA coalition, which was in place up until this week, was accused of neglecting the upgrading of facilities in the townships.
However, a study conducted by tourism experts from the Nelson Mandela University and metro officials estimated that the direct spend on the metro economy will be over R400 million.
The tourism experts say athletes and visitors arrive early, some even a week before and after the event. They stay for about two to three days, during which time they spend money.
The R45 million the metro will spend to host the event is comprised of hosting fees and provision of services, with the biggest chunk – about R28 million – going towards road infrastructure.
This budget excludes the 340 complimentary rooms which the metro is obliged to pay for, as well as the winners’ trophies. The rooms are for the Ironman officials and they are provided by the metro as per the Ironman hosting agreement.
Local hotels have donated the rooms for free to the metro; they will then be given to the officials.
The two-day Ironman 70.3 championship which ends today is comprised of three parts: a 1.9km swim; 90km of cycling; and a 21km run.
The Ironman 70.3 is also known as the Half Ironman because the distance covered in the three disciplines is half that of the full Ironman.
Over 5 000 athletes from 102 countries will participate, watched by 100 000 spectators including 15 000 visitors.
“A lot of planning has gone into this to make sure that we are ready for it,” says Ironman SA managing director Keith Bowler.
“We are regarded as one of the top races the world over and we are the best with the support of the athletes.”
Nelson Mandela Bay metro sports, recreation, arts and culture head Noxolo Nqwazi told City Press that 251 jobs will be created, adding that a craft and cultural village will be set up, where about 18 informal traders and 30 crafters will sell their wares.
“This event will no doubt boost not only the Nelson Mandela Bay economy, but the entire Eastern Cape province. The benefits, including the legacy projects, are huge,” said Nqwazi.
“Roads and public facilities will be refurbished, jobs have been created for small, medium and micro enterprises during construction, and informal traders will ply their trade at different stalls. There are city ambassadors to help guide the visitors and beach patrol officers to see that everyone is safe. All these will benefit [the metro] financially.”
Luvuyo Bangazi, a well-known Port Elizabeth triathlete and participant in the event, said: “As a coastal city we are perfectly positioned for such events throughout the year. This event is a springboard to [the] future growth of this lucrative sport-tourism economy.”
Port Elizabeth Metro Bed and Breakfast Association chairperson Shena Wilmot said: “All rooms in the beachfront hotels have been taken up. Bed and breakfast establishments are also filling up fast. The Ironman is a major boost to the city’s economy.”
Live television broadcasts of the event will put Nelson Mandela Bay on the tourism map and get potential visitors interested in exploring the region.
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