Firstly, based on many conversations on the Sunday morning, I would like to suggest that, because of a whole variety of issues, many athletes were already not intending to return to Leeds prior to the bag return fiasco. Most notably; the quite unbelievably poor and contradictory pre-event information, the opening of registration at 9am but not opening T2 in the city centre until 2pm, the bizarre organization of the event and route, most obviously the extraordinary long run out from T1, the dangerous uphill bike mount, the scary narrow and too fast and technical bike course and the awful condition of T2, the peculiar choice and awful condition of refreshment at the finish, the lack of toilets; not to mention officials who said we could lay our gear out on Sunday morning and then other officials who came and stuffed it all back into bags whilst we were swimming! I do apologise for the hyperbole and overuse of adjectives but in this case the circumstances do warrant it. Certainly, before the race had even started my wife and I had also decided that we would not be entering this event again.
Enough has already been said about the bag collection debacle but I would like to comment on the e-mail sent around to competitors from ‘World Triathlon Leeds’ and entitled “Blue and green bag collection information”. It is not “a solution” as the e-mail says that competitors can pick their bags up from the start; it is a cop-out, a derogation of responsibility, and furthermore suggesting the use of the shuttle bus service when most of us had already collected our bikes, because of the long wait, was also of less than no use. Finally to end the e-mail with “We are sorry for any inconvenience caused” as an apology to athletes who have had their day ruined, who have waited for many hours and many of whom are virtually hypothermic is simply appalling.
As many people have said on social media and in the press this had to be the worst, most poorly organized and managed event that we will ever attend. Like many of the other athletes I have taken part in triathlon for many years and in many countries and I would certainly agree with this viewpoint. Leeds was intended to be the highlight of our triathlon year and instead it has turned into a bitter memory. I also paid £25 for an event T-shirt which, because of the enforced trip back to Roundhay I was not able to collect. In addition we had booked an extra night’s stay in Leeds to enable us to watch the elite events without having to worry about a return journey. Again, because we had to make our way back to Roundhay, bear in mind that we had no warm clothing, no money, no phone, no car keys etc, we missed seeing the elite events. At the very least I would expect a refund of our total event payment.
If you buy goods and they prove faulty you are entitled to get your money back. That is exactly what has happened here and every competitor is entitled to a full refund. If Ironman do not refund money and you paid by PayPal or credit card raise a dispute on the transaction, you did not get what was described in their marketing literature. If PayPal and the credit card companies get thousands of disputes raised against one company they will take action and help put the pressure on Ironman to resolve this with full refunds.
I wasn't a competitor I was a spectator and saw the 30/40 deep mass of shivering triathletes in Leeds centre desperate for clothing and food when they should have been celebrating completing an event they had been training for for months! Some were very very distraught as they could not contact relatives, they had missed trains, they had no clothes, no money, no food, no car keys, no drink, no way of getting warm or dry. Triathletes had been up since 4am to navigate the ridiculous registration/double transition set up and they were simply abandoned in a strange city for hours and hours by the event organisers.
The event for a spectator was incredible but what went on behind the scenes and the impact and disregard for the health and safety of competitors was outrageous. Whoever is responsible for this needs to APOLOGISE AND COMPENSATE for their failure to deliver a safe "fit for purpose" event.
To the ITU age-groupers are just cash-cows to support the vast number of blazer wearing hanger-ons and to provide prize money for pros. My last ITU race was the world long course in Canberra in 2004 and I have refused to race another.
I did the open sprint race and can only echo the comments made here and amplify them. This is my second season in tri and my sixth race overall. I've also competed in a number of 10k and OW swim events over the last 18 months. Without a shadow of a doubt this was the most poorly organised event I have taken part in. It was also the most expensive entry fee I have paid.
The organisation from start to finish was, simply put, shambolic. Having been unable to register on the Saturday (though from the reports I've been given by others, this was equally chaotic) I gave myself plenty of time in the morning and duly arrived at the 05:30 am registration time, only to be told by the ITU official (not a volunteer) that the registration packs were locked inside Leeds Beckett Uni, which wouldn't be opened until at least 6 am.
Whilst the swim location was undoubtedly picturesque, the location of the green bag drop and swim entrance created a bottleneck and it was very crowded. The toilet situation has been commented on by others and no more than 20 portaloos for 6k+ competitors was woefully inadequate. At 8 am several of them were, by that point, unusable.
The placement of T1 was a joke. Clearly the AGs had been shunted as far out of the way as possible in order to make space for the event sponsors' VIP competitors transition, which would later double up as the elites' area.
The least said about T2 the better. It was a waste ground. A local person after the event told us that it used to be a swimming pool that had been demolished. Whilst I luckily didn't suffer any of the glass or nails others had described getting running shoes on without stones all over your feet was a challenge to say the least.
The end of the race was another epic fail. Crossing the finish line, you were herded into a pen. An overzealous official would not hand me a bottle of water until I had removed my timing chip. A little thing really, but quickly took the shine of the euphoria of finishing.
The post race offerings were, as others have commented, woefully lacking. Half a bread roll, a segment of orange or half a banana. No athlete goody bag (would all those race sponsors not be keen to provide the usual promotional freebies?) I know competing should not be about the post race offerings as much as it should be about the race and the achievement of finishing it, but when you pay £100 to compete in the race its not unreasonable to expect the organisers to provide something like this. I've done races costing less than half this with some great freebies after the race, so why the supposed Premier League of tri cant muster this up is beyond me.
I pre-paid £25 for a finishers' T-shirt (you'd be forgiven for thinking an entry fee of £75 would get you this). Sadly there was no signage as to where to go to collect this, so I've not been able to claim it. I've emailed the organisers once a day for the last three days to enquire about this with zero response.
The bag drop issues were just the icing on the cake. Having been told I was going to have to wait at least two hours for my bag to reach town, I decided to bike back up to Roundhay to pick up my car and bring it back into town. Having done this, I was caught up with the traffic and parking restrictions so had to walk (in cleats) around the entire city centre bike/ run course only to arrive and be told the bags were now not going to be delivered from Roundhay. No announcement had been made.
Subsequent investigation showed that a message had been posted on facebook (which I'm not on). To be fair, they did send competitors an email - at 19:00hrs! Which would not have been received as my phone was in my green bag!
I could go on and on, but this would be futile. My long suffering family, including my five year old son, were forced to traipse around Leeds for hours. My wife now reasonably says she doesn't want to bring my son to another event. How this inspires the next generation is beyond me.
I should add that the registered company address for Ironman Unlimited Events UK Limited (which is the company which Lagardere Unlimited Events UK Limited changed their name to when IMCORP bought them out) is as follows:
4th Floor 80 Victoria Street, London, United Kingdom, SW1E 5JL
Disgruntled athletes might want to cite in correspondence the implied contractual duty of care and skill that is required of service providers by s.13 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
Has the time come to boycott the money making machine that Ironman has become?