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Greece Getting Ready for its First ‘IRONMAN’ – Interview with Thanasis Papadimitriou, CEO of EYZHN Greece DMC

Athletes compete in IRONMAN 70.3 Vichy on August 26, 2017 in Vichy, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Imagesfor IRONMAN)

Athletes compete in IRONMAN 70.3 Vichy on August 26, 2017 in Vichy, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Imagesfor IRONMAN)

Greece is getting ready to host its first ever IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon in April 2019!

Scheduled to take place on April 14 at Costa Navarino of Messinia in the region of the Peloponnese, one of the most unspoiled and breathtaking seaside Mediterranean landscapes, the event will welcome athletes from around the world who will arrive to test their strength and also experience the renowned Messinian hospitality, or “philoxenia” in Greek (a word that’s origins stem from Homer’s Odyssey).

With a history of 40 years, the IRONMAN event is present in 55 countries, while its community consists of 1 million athletes and 5.5 million sports fans. Organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), the one-day event consists of a 4km swimming race; a 180km bicycle ride and a 42.2km marathon run.

But what exactly is IRONMAN?

GTP Headlines had the opportunity to speak to Thanassis Papadimitriou, CEO & Founder of Athens-based EY ZHN Greece DMC, the official travel partner of IRONMAN 70.3 Greece.

According to Papadimitriou, IRONMAN will be the biggest event in the region of Peloponnese for 2019.

Thanassis Papadimitriou.

Thanassis Papadimitriou.

“IRONMAN is not just a race! Ιt is an idea, a global move, a passionate crowd, an event that promotes the motto ‘Anything is possible’…” – Thanassis Papadimitriou

Bikers compete during the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Bikers compete during the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

GTP: Tell us few words about IRONMAN. What exactly is the event?

Thanassis Papadimitriou: IRONMAN started exactly 40 years ago when a group of 15 friends, amateur athletes, wanted to find out who, among the runners, bikers and swimmers, was the strongest. How would they find that out? By completing a race – that they thought was impossible – swimming, biking and running 140.6 miles in a single day. That was the start of what we say today: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Today, 40 years later, thousands of athletes around the world chase their dream to complete the same race and become an IRONMAN.

GTP: How important is the fact that IRONMAN is being held in Greece for the first time?

Thanassis Papadimitriou: Greece will host an IRONMAN event in the region of Messinia, around the area of Costa Navarino, on the 14th of April in 2019. The first IRONMAN in Greece will be called “IRONMAN 70.3 Costa Navarino Greece” and the official partner and hosting venue is the luxury resort of Costa Navarino.
“IRONMAN 70.3 Greece” will be the biggest event in the region of Peloponnese for 2019. IRONMAN has more than 1 million fans around the world and many of them will visit Greece for four to ten days during an off season tourism period, either as athletes to participate and complete the “IRONMAN 70.3 Greece” or as visitors to support the people who will make their dream come true. It is worth highlighting the fact that the 65 percent of the visitors will come from a high socioeconomic status. One of our goals is to create satellite activities, through which we will be able to show why Greece has nothing less than other countries of the world; to present the beauty of Greek nature; our timeless culture; and our famous authentic hospitality.  To accomplish all these goals, we need to have full support of the Messinian community, because it will be the community that will give meaning to the words culture and hospitality. Our aim is to make the roads around Costa Navarino “come to life”, be crowded with people and full of cheer, laughing and music.

GTP: How many athletes will participate in IRONMAN 70.3 Greece? Could you please give us some idea about the profile of the participants? Have the registrations been completed yet?

Thanassis Papadimitriou: To be honest, our initial expectation was to reach the number of 300 Greeks and 500 foreign participants. These numbers were based on the fact that in Greece, currently, there are around 700 triathletes but not on a professional level. Also, the registration cost is five times higher than any other triathlon race price in Greece. Moreover, as this will be the first ever IRONMAN in Greece, we didn’t think it would become so popular and this fast among the international triathletic community. Today, as we speak, the event is SOLD OUT and registrations are closed, only five months before the big race day! We are delighted to say that there are more than 1,500 participants who will visit Messinia and make the impossible, possible! First country in numbers of participants is Greece with some 650 participations, a number that pleasantly surprised us. The United Kingdom is in the second place, followed by the US, Germany, France, the Netherlands, etc.
Most of the participants come from a high socioeconomic status, they are people with great impact on others, with strong personalities. They are used to aiming high and achieving every goal in every aspect of their lives. IRONMAN is an idea that inspires, gives passion and needs dedication. The percentage of the participants is 81 percent men and 19 percent women. The average age is 42 years old, with the oldest participant being 73, a Greek-American who will join “IRONMAN 70.3 Greece” with his son!

An athlete competes in the bike leg of IRONMAN Italy Emilia Romagna on September 23, 2017 in Cervia, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

An athlete competes in the bike leg of IRONMAN Italy Emilia Romagna on September 23, 2017 in Cervia, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

GTP: How difficult is it for a non-professional triathlete to participate in an IRONMAN? Could you give us some examples of “brave” ordinary people who have completed an IRONMAN? What does someone need to give up in order to prepare themselves for a race like IRONMAN?

Thanassis Papadimitriou: Greece will enter the IRONMAN world with an “IRONMAN 70.3” race. “70.3” stands for the total distance covered, measured in miles. This is half the distance of a full IRONMAN. So, in our race the swimming is 1.9km, the biking is 90km and the running is a half marathon – 21.1 km. Of course, we are still talking about a very difficult and demanding race but, it is still possible. We have people with amazing stories who wanted to overcome themselves and achieve their own personal goal. People for example, who suffered from obesity and by following a specific training schedule and with determination managed to become IRONMAN finishers. Determination, passion, discipline and the attitude of “Anything is possible” are key elements for someone who wants to become an IRONMAN Finisher.

Patrick Lange of Germany celebrates after setting a course record of 7:52:39 to win the IRONMAN World Championships by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Patrick Lange of Germany celebrates after setting a course record of 7:52:39 to win the IRONMAN World Championships by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

GTP: Now, that you are involved in this exciting and demanding athletic event, what does IRONMAN mean to you?

Competitors are seen in action during the Ironman Wales competiton on September 10, 2017 in Tenby, Wales. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images for IRONMAN)Thanassis Papadimitriou: IRONMAN is not just a race, it is an idea, a global move, a passionate crowd, an event that promotes the motto – as I have previously mentioned – “Anything is possible”! We want to invite everyone to come on April 14 to Messinia, to cheer and applaud all the IRONMAN Finishers!

GTP: Who is behind IRONMAN Greece?

Thanassis Papadimitriou: IRONMAN has been introduced to Greece after a long and persistent effort by EY ZHN Greece, a known and respected company in the hospitality and events industry. Upon receipt of the license to host the IRONMAN races, a new corporate entity (IQS Ltd) was created to handle this project and more are expected to join soon.

GTP: Where could someone find more info about IRONMAN 70.3 Greece?

Thanassis Papadimitriou: The official website of IRONMAN is always up to date!

A general view of the finish line of the IRONMAN Klagenfurt on July 2, 2017 in Klagenfurt, Austria. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images for Ironman )

A general view of the finish line of the IRONMAN Klagenfurt on July 2, 2017 in Klagenfurt, Austria. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images for Ironman )

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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