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Triathlon company latest piece in Wanda Group sports pie

By HU YUANYUAN in Beijing (China Daily USA)

Updated: 2015-08-28 15:18:48


Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd announced Thursday that it has agreed to purchase the World Triathlon Corp for $650 million, as it bolsters its roster of sports enterprises.

WTC, based in Tampa, Florida, is the largest operator of triathlon events, including the well-known Ironman brand. It accounts for 91 percent of the global market of long-distance triathlon events.

Triathlons comprise three disciplines - swimming, cycling and running - completed in succession. In the United States, more than 480,000 people participate in triathlon events, with over 4,400 separate races held each year.

The WTC acquisition represents another major Wanda investment in the sports sector. Wanda bought Swiss marketing firm Infront Sports & Media in February, and a month earlier it took a 20 percent stake in the Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid.

"After the acquisition of WTC, Wanda will become the largest sports company in the world in terms of its revenue," said Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, one of the largest private conglomerates in China. Wanda started as a real estate company several years ago and now has different business lines ranging from culture to sports.

Wanda believes that triathlons have a bright future in China. As the country's middle class grows, the Chinese are paying more attention to physical fitness. According to senior sports circles, China has millions of cyclists and tens of millions of runners, so the potential for triathlon participation may be huge.

Mark Dreyer is the founder of the website China Sports Insider. He wrote to China Daily that there has been a trend toward more physical exercise in recent years, but the starting point is more of an armchair sports-fan culture.

"At a high school level, where lifelong exercise habits are typically formed, extreme academic pressures have tended to crowd out the vast majority of extracurricular activities, especially sports, but the reforms in March this year to transform the soccer system from the grassroots level up have been encouraging," Dreyer said.

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