Ironman 70.3 races will take place in the Middle East, according to a statement today from Ironman. The "Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship triathlon will take place in the Kingdom of Bahrain on December 5, 2015, followed by the IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai triathlon in early 2016."
What does this mean for Challenge Bahrain, which is also scheduled to take place in December? Does the Ironman race in Dubai replace it or coexist alongside it? We interviewed Challenge Family’s CEO Zibi Szlufcik last month and he said of his company’s relationship with the Middle Eastern royals, "There are ups and downs everywhere in the world, but generally speaking we have a strong and committed relationship." Will Ironman’s announcement today test that relationship, or is it a message that relationship is already imperiled or worse?
What about the Triple Crown? Will Ironman races replace Challenge in its last two legs? Challenge promises an imminent statement explaining its own position.
His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (pictured), raced Ironman Florida in November of 2013, and the speculation was that Ironman was coming to the Middle East. But missteps by an Ironman employee in its European office opened the door to Challenge. Things have not always been rosy in the relationship, however, and Ironman, having learned from its earlier mistake, has obviously fared better in its most recent attempts to enter the Middle East.
The Middle East is just the latest in the global war between Ironman and Challenge.There will certainly be much, much more to this story.