Last March, 181 triathletes from all over the world took part in the first edition of Ironman 70.3 Saipan.
The Tagaman Triathlon, which has been held on island every year since 1988, held its latest edition last June 24, 2017.
In between is the XTERRA Saipan triathlon, which is also a crowd-drawer.
There are also a host of smaller events unique to Saipan, Tinian, and Rota that also cater to tourist-athletes. These suite of sporting events round up the continuing efforts of the Marianas Visitors Authority to position the CNMI as a sports destination in the Western Pacific.
“Sports tourism is very important to us. It’s a big focus for my marketing team and community projects team. Sports tourism is clean, it brings in high yield customers and has very minimal damage to the environment so we want to encourage it even more,” said MVA managing director Chris Concepcion.
Ironman 70.3 Saipan was the first Ironman that’s ever been held in the Marianas and Micronesia. “For us to be able to bring the global Ironman brand to the CNMI is huge. It is a prestigious event that attracts athletes all over the world and the exposure the CNMI gets for all its promotions is very important,” Concepcion said.
Another MVA signature event is the Tagaman Triathlon. “It is the longest running race in the Western Pacific and we are happy that every year, the number of athletes who participate, local and foreign keeps going up, Concepcion said.
Saipan was recently certified by the International Association of Athletics Federation, which is the international governing body for the sport of athletics- sprint, middle/long, hurdles and long running or marathons and AIMS International Circuit.
Concepcion said this will set the pace for more marathon events on the CNMI. “Getting accredited is very relevant because it means more marathons can be held here and because of the accreditations, these marathons will serve as a stepping stone for the runners to get qualified for bigger marathons like the Boston Marathon, which is considered the most prestigious marathon in the world.”
Another event where the MVA is a key sponsor is the Saipan International Fishing Derby in July. “As part of our sports tourism thrust, we do not only organize sports events, we also do sponsorships. This way, the CNMI gets promotion overseas. For the derby, we are expecting fishermen from throughout Asia who really do not get the chance to go out trolling and catch tuna, mahi mahi, and marlin. The CNMI is a good destination because of our natural resources.”
Sports tourism in the CNMI not only targets athletes but also spectators and lovers of the sport who come to the CNMI to watch their favorite athletes.
“Going forward, we are going to continue to look at sports tourism as a big focus for us. We are also keen on promoting sports tourism on Tinian and Rota,” Concepcion added.
Other MVA-sponsored sports events in 2017 are Konqer in September, the Rota Blue Marathon in November, and Hell of the Marianas Century cycling in December.