Sunday the 20thApril, 2008 was the first ever Ironman triathlon in China. The event was hosted in Haikou city, the capital of Hainan Island. According to the competitors and organizers the event was a success.
As a person who lives in Haikou, I was interested in how the first Ironman China would unfold. In the days leading up to the event it threatened to go pear shaped. There had been 3 weeks of sunny days until a few days before race day when there was a typhoon warning for the Ironman weekend. Fortunately, as per my experience so far, the typhoon was something of an anti-climax, consisting of little more than a bit of wind and rain. It all cleared up quickly and by the race day was clear and sunny.
The race consists of a 4km swim, 180km of cycling, and a 40km run to the finish. I watched by the finish line and saw the winner, Germany's Olaf Sabatschus, finish in 8 hours and 52 minutes. Second was South Korea's Park Byung-hoon and third Tim Marr of the US. Parts of Haikou traffic where redirected and the race passed through different areas of Haikou. Many local people got in to the spirit of it even thou most had probably never heard of Ironman before. They lined the streets and cheered on the competitors with calls of ‘jia you’ (literally translates as ‘add oil’ and are words of encouragement to push yourself harder).
Some of the competitors were staying at the banana hostel. It was interesting meeting the people who push themselves to such extremes, hearing about their experiences, and their preparation. Hopefully the Ironman China will be a regular event in Haikou. I believe the local government is actively encouraging such events because they help the economy of Haikou without the need for heavy industry.
Update: The Ironman has become an annual event, with competitions on April 2009 and March 2010.