Every year thousands of Triathletes and their supporters visit the picturesque island of Hawaii for the Ironman World championships.
From a PR point of view, playing host to a high profile event such as Ironman Kona is any tourist boards dream. Kona and the island of Hawaii are both showcased by photographers and journalist and then beamed around the world for potential visitors to see. Local businesses benefit from a massive influx of revenue as Ironman athletes and supporters spend their money in Konas restaurants, hotels and stores. In short, the event is a gold mine for the local economy.
A few days ago we received an email from some members of the Kona community, highlighting their concerns about some “Ironman athletes behaving badly” in Kona. But what are their concerns?
In a nutshell there are two main issues which are stepping on local toes, ie. Road Safety & Rude Athletes. It seems that while in town, a certain contingent of competitors have been continually breaking speed limits, running stop signs and ignoring the traffic laws. For locals that can be a headache”I almost was hit in the middle of the crosswalk last year as 4 men came through town not even slowing down.” said one local. Others might say that this is just something which goes with hosting such a big Triathlon, but for the people who live in Kona it makes a difference.
The attitude of some of the Ironman athletes during the race also seems to be alienating the local community, many of whom volunteer their time and energy in order to marshall at the race. It’s understandable that this would get on peoples nerves. Giving up your free time to help out in a race is a generous thing to do and receiving abuse or being treated rudely will obviously make you think twice about doing it again. One local spoke up about his frustrations : “A gent that was helping me clear my property last year said he and the two real estate agents he worked for were not going to be volunteers for the Ironman event this year, because they were treated so rudely the last couple of years.”
But what does this mean? Cyclists break lights and some competitors are rude at all events. It’s not acceptable behaviour but it’s the minority who are usually to blame. Are some locals in Kona just getting tired of having such a large event in their town?
The reality of the situation is that whenever you get thousands of people suddenly descending on any location, there are going to be issues. The disparity between the visitors mentality and the locals priorities enevitably leads to friction. The vast majority of Ironman athletes are well behaved and experience a warm and supportive welcome from their Kona hosts. Likewise the community of Kona is pleased to host the Ironman event and to reap the benefits which go with that responsibility.
Some Triathletes may feel that it’s no big deal if some cyclists break the lights, but when you have thousands in town every year for 30 years, the locals do care. Likewise some athletes may not be too bothered about people being rude to marshals, but again.. the local really do. It’s these small differences of opinion that can dictate whether any event is a race which the local community want to support or not.
So back to the email. Are Ironman athletes behaving badly in Kona?
Overall I think the answer’s no, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few bad apples who are making Kona residents feel a different way.
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