BEYOND THE HEADLINES: The runaround

Columnist Richard Rolke questions the Ironman decision after the community jumped through hoops

Does anyone feel burned over Ironman?

Just four days after Vernon submitted an official bid package, a dear John letter came from Ironman’s corporate office in Florida. They praised the community’s efforts, but ultimately it was nada, zip, the tribe has spoken.

Everyone involved in putting the bid together was doing the stiff upper lip thing, but not making the short-list must have been gut-wrenching.

After all, the entire world — at least as we know it in the North Okanagan — ground to a halt over the 19 days the city actually had between being contacted about hosting opportunities and  firing off a bid.

For city staff, they scrambled to find legitimate answers to all of the great unknowns. What would the economic benefit to the region be? What would be the financial commitment from taxpayers? Is it possible to pull together 4,500 volunteers? If Ironman is such a great thing, why did Penticton go another direction after three decades?

Preliminary discussions were held with major local corporations to see if they would cough up sponsorship bucks.

Extraordinary steps were taken to determine  public input through newspaper advertising and social media.

Other city business was shoved off to the side as the rapid-fire deadline drew near.

The politicians were also kept busy as the burden of making a decision rested with them.

The  mayor’s office became a  virtual call centre as Rob Sawatzky worked the phones and  lobbied adjacent jurisdictions. A Vernon bid would only be successful if there was regional support because cycling and running routes would range from Lake Country to Salmon Arm.

And there was a domino-effect because the other municipal councils had to adjust already posted agendas or hold special meetings to decide if they would come on board.

City of Vernon staff did the travelling dog-and-pony show where needed.

Outside of the political realm, residents were also jumping through hoops.

A group of dedicated triathletes tried to create a buzz over Ironman, including signing up potential volunteers at booths at the Vernon Farmers Market and the Village Green Centre.

While endurance is nothing new to them, galvanizing the community put these athletes through the paces.

Everyone was working towards a common goal — the Oct. 10 announcement of the new Ironman Canada host. Awareness of a short-list wasn’t widely known and certainly not publicized by Ironman’s parent company.

In fact, Friday’s announcement that Vernon didn’t make the cut was even questionably handled — a three paragraph statement in Triathlon Magazine Canada broke the news.

After an actual phone call with Florida, City of Vernon officials were forced to crank out a press release late Friday — a time when they and the media are dreaming about the weekend.

To all local government staff and politicians, and particularly the triathletes and residents who got involved in preparing a bid, my hat goes off to you. You truly demonstrated the passion and vision of the North Okanagan and what truly makes this a great place to call home.

There are a lot of reasons to be proud about what went on, but after jumping through corporate hoops only to be cast aside, one can’t help but feel hollow.