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The Central Okanagan has lost bid to host Ironman Canada

Kelowna has lost in its bid to host the 2013 Ironman Canada event.

The World Triatlon Corporation has confirmed Whistler will host Ironman Canada Aug. 25, 2013.

Citing its legacy of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, the WTC said Whistler will offer athletes a “beautiful, challenging experience in a world-class venue” when the event is held there Aug. 25, 2013.

“Whistler is recognized worldwide as a sought-after travel and outdoor recreation destination. As the new host community of Ironman Canada, Whistler will immediately earn a reputation as a triathlon destination,” said Steve Meckfessel, managing director of global race operations for Tampa, Fla.-based WTC.

“With its accessibility to major west coast markets, stunning beauty and tourism infrastructure, Whistler will resonate with our athletes, their families and fans of Ironman.”

Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray said he was disappointed Kelowna’s bid failed but praised the work of city staff for putting together a very good proposal and volunteering their time to do it.

He said the group he led to Tampa earlier this month to make the city’s presentation was told it would cost more to stage the event here than in Whistler, but the WTC was impressed with the city and its plan.

Kelowna, Whistler and Huntsville, Ont. had made the final shortlist.

News that Whistler was the successful bidder leaked out earlier Thursday, after Tourism Whistler announced it on its webpage.

But within hours, the announcement was removed from the Tourism Whistler webpage.

The IronmanCanada.com webpage was also shut down for a while Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi said from the beginning he believed Whistler was the community to beat.

Mattiussi said the WTC wanted to make its decision during the Ironman championships in Kona, Hawaii, this week as the clock was ticking on the time available to plan the 2013 Ironman Canada event.

He said there is already a substantially shorter time window to organize next year’s event than normal.

The last Ironman Canada event held in Penticton took place at the start of September.

Gray said he felt the B.C. mountain resort community was likely the WTC’s choice all along.

But he said his city planned to learn from its experience and remains committed to the promotion of recreation and lifestyle events in future here.

“What they will be, I can’t say right now, but I’m sure there will be some,” said Gray.

He added the city remains fully supportive of the annual Apple Triathlon and wants to see it succeed and grow.

Part of the city’s bid for the Ironman event was to create an ongoing list of volunteers who could be depended on to help with large community events in future.

As for the economic loss associated with the Ironman event leaving the Okanagan, Gray said the city was more focused on the economic gain if it could be kept here.

When the city made its bid, Gray said it was important for the valley not to lose such a large, major event because it brought many people not just to Penticton but to other parts of the valley as well, noting many flew to the area via the Kelowna airport.

Kelowna’s bid included support from West Kelowna, the Westbank First Nation, Lake Country and Vernon, and would have included a bike course that would have taken riders over the William R. Bennett Bridge to the Westside, as well as north to the Vernon area.

In its premature announcement on the Tourism Whistler website, Whistler’s natural beauty was touted as the perfect setting for the race, with winding mountain roads, sparkling lakes and mountain views all part of the unique and challenging course.

“Summer is the perfect time to visit Whistler with events and outdoor activities for all ages. The pedestrian village is alive day and night with plenty of places to dine, boutique shopping, a busy nightlife and opportunities to enjoy Whistler’s unique arts and culture scene. Arrive early and stay late for a summer vacation to remember,” said the website announcement.

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