Olympic tri organizer looks ahead to Sydney

The Olympic flame burns during the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, Korea  Credit: AllsportUK/Allsport
When the Summer Olympics begin in Sydney on Sept. 16, the eyes of the world will focus on triathlon, the newest sport to the Olympic family. Triathlon will make its debut in grand style it will serve as the first major medal competition of the Games and will be held amidst what is arguably the most scenic of venues in Sydney.

Without question, the 2000 Summer Olympics serves as one colossal opportunity for our relatively young sport, and theres one man whos been working tirelessly down under to ensure that the opportunity is exploited to the fullest extent.

Former competitive triathlete and Melbourne native David Hansen is the man working to inject triathlon into the sporting mainstream. As the Olympic Games Manager for Triathlon, he is brimming with excitement, ideas, energy and commitment, seeking ways to best showcase the inaugural Olympic triathlon.

My aim is to create an event on the biggest sporting stage in the world in a way that will make all aspiring triathletes dream of being a participant, Hansen says. Just how does he plan to do it? Read on.

What are the feelings you gauge from within the triathlon world about Olympic inclusion?

Without a doubt, eagerness, excitement and anticipation. This is particularly so with athletes, coaches and administrators.

There has been an enormous amount of pride generated with our inclusion in the ultimate sporting vehicle. At the elite level, all efforts are being directed towards team selection, and I can see athletes aspiring to reach the new pinnacle of our sport, the Olympic Games. There is a real feeling of recognition for the sport on a new level.

This is triathlons first Olympic exposure. How is it being treated within the Olympic family? Is it a poor relation?

There is an enormous amount of excitement within SOCOG (Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

For starters, it is a new event. Its also being held on day one and is the first major medal competition. Finally, it is being held at the ultimate venue of the games.

The first shots of competition beamed around the world to some 4 billion viewers will be of triathlon. I dont think you could get a better profile positioning for a new sport than what triathlon has at Sydney. Everyone knows this and wants to get it just right. The sport is of high importance to all bodies connected with the games.

It is incredibly exciting. One of the proudest things for me is that the IOC has rated us a PEL (Prime Event Limitation), which means that IOC members have to be ticketed to this event with only the 140 most important officials allocated a ticket.

The only other PEL events are the opening and closing ceremonies, swim and athletics finals. That gives an indication of the international recognition. Within SOCOG the sport has been allocated the prime venue, and I think that says enough.

You mention the venue. What can our international friends look forward to seeing?

The venue is arguably the most spectacular in the world. The beauty of the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, the botanical gardens, historic landmarks, the city and its skyline, all situated around one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.

It will be magnificent. The athletes I have spoken with rate the course one of the best, if not the best. I rate it as a relatively tough circuit and athletes like Barb Lindquist have raced here in the World Cup and done very well.

Barb loves the Sydney event and Siri Lindley was so impressed that it has inspired her attempt to make the American team. With crowds of 150,000 to 200,000 expected, it will be the most impressive triathlon ever staged, so who can blame her?

Next: Making the Olympic triathlon happen.

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