Cebu tests hosting skills for 1,700 athletes; Partial closure of bridge, coastal road set on Sunday morning
It’s the first time for Cebu to hold the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines – a test of endurance for visiting athletes and a challenge for the hosting skills of a metropolis.
About 1,700 athletes from various countries have started arriving for Sunday’s races to be staged on land and sea across cities of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu and Talisay.
For the day-to-day routine of Cebuanos, the international sports event will mean partial closure of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge on Sunday morning and the south coastal road from Mandaue city to Cebu and Talisay cities from 5 a.m. to 12 noon.
The biggest celebrity to arrive is 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button.
The British national arrived on Tuesday with his Japanese fashion model girlfriend Jessica Michibata, who is also competing in the triathlon.
“Just landed in Cebu, first stop hotel bar for some good hydration with Spud,” he said on Twitter, where he posted a photo of himself sipping fresh buko juice from a coconut.
“I’m not sure fish and chips is a local dish here in the Philippines!! Gonna give lechon a go I think,” he said, ready to sample Cebu’s specialty – roasted pig.
Most of the athletes are staying at the posh Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort in Lapu-Lapu City where the race will start with 1.9 kilometer swim.
This will transition to a 90 kilometer bicycle race across the Marcelo Fernan Bridge to the South Road Properties in Cebu City and Talisay City, before turning back to end with a 21 kilometer run in Lapu-Lapu City.
The bulk of athletes will be arriving today.
Participants will be welcomed in the Mactan airport with leis and Filipiniana-attired staff of the Department of Tourism.
Athletes registration will be open from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Marquee in Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort.
Cebu-born Wilfred Uytengsu Jr., president and CEO of Alaska Milk Corp., was instrumental in bringing the Ironman 70.3 to the country.
Uytengsu, who is also a triathlete, is the president of the Sunrise Events Inc., which secured a contract with the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), to hold the major sport event in the Philippines.
In last month’s launching in Makati, Uytengsu said they chose Cebu as the next venue because of its strategic location and amenities.
He said they wanted a venue that could accommodate a larger number of participants with easy access to the airport and hotels, where local and foreign participants and their families can be accommodated.
With the success of the three other stagings of the Ironman 70.3 Philippines in Camarines Sur, Uytengsu said the WTC has higher expectations of the Cebu edition.
For example, the swim segment will be held in open water, the Hilutungan Channel.
For the first three years, the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines was hosted by Camarines Sur. For the next three years, Cebu province is the venue.
Celebrities from Philippine showbiz and politics will be seen in the triathlon.
Those who signed up for the event include Piolo Pascual, Matteo Guidicelli, Kim Atienza, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Gilbert Remulla, Jennylyn Mercado and Drew Arellano.
The race has attracted participants from 31 countries including the United States, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Italy and United Kingdom.
The Ironman 70.3 is also known as the Half Ironman, part of a series of middle-distance triathlon races where athletes negotiate half the distance of all three segments found in the Ironman Triathlon.
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