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Ruth Favela
By Ruth Favela
Ruth Favela
Ruth Favela
Ruth Favela is Tomorrow.io's AI Marketer. She draws on over 5 years of experience as an editor, writer, and social media manager for AI startups, B2B SaaS, and B2C products. In her role, Ruth focuses on using AI tools to create customer-first content for the various industries Tomorrow.io has solutions for. She writes about weather innovations, AI/ML modeling, weather API applications, weather AI use cases, and much more.
Jan 31, 2024· 5 min, 58 sec

How World Triathlon Powers 250 Events Yearly With Weather Intelligence

    The Snapshot:

    • World Triathlon faces increasing climate threats that endanger athlete safety and event continuity.
    • Extreme heat, storms, and pollution have already disrupted major races, forcing delays and location changes.
    • Advanced weather intelligence enables proactive risk assessment and adaptation planning.
    • Automated alerts provide early warnings to trigger smooth coordination of contingency measures.
    • Prioritizing athlete health through data-driven resilience is crucial as climate impacts intensify.

    At ClimaCon4, Tomorrow.io’s fourth annual conference on climate adaptation and resilience, we heard from Thanos Nikopoulos, Head of Operations at World Triathlon, who opened our eyes with a discussion on navigating climate disruptions across the organization’s 200+ annual endurance racing events globally.

    “It’s quite important to get the proper [weather] information, to evaluate the data…and make decisions…to guarantee the health and safety of the athletes,” explains Nikopoulos when asked about climate impact priorities.

    He describes how worsening conditions like heat waves, water pollution, and lightning storms have forced race delays, schedule changes, and even venue shifts to protect athlete safety in recent years.

    In this session recap, we highlight key insights from Nikopoulos on leveraging predictive weather analytics to enable smoother climate adaptation and bolster event resilience worldwide in endurance sports. 

    Introducing World Triathlon

    World Triathlon’s mission and reach are massive, being the international governing body for the triathlon, duathlon, winter triathlon, and other multisport races. 

    Nikopoulos explains, “We are responsible for developing the sport globally” by overseeing national federations and organizing major international competitions like world championships, world cups, para triathlons, etc.

    This portfolio comprises over “five to ten races per week around the globe,” from small Caribbean islands to major metropolitan cities worldwide. These diverse events range in participant size, serving anywhere from 50-70 elite athletes at qualification races to up to a whopping “four, five thousand athletes” at World Triathlon’s largest mass participation competitions spanning two days.

    To support this vast calendar, World Triathlon maintains an international team that manages each event from initial planning through successful delivery, working closely with local organizing committees. 

    They ensure all plans meet World Triathlon’s guidelines and health and safety standards for a smooth, compliant, world-class event.

    A significant factor in planning these events?

    The weather. 

    Climate Change Impacts Across World Triathlon’s Operational Spectrum

    To World Triathlon, the weather is “unfortunately, the number one factor, the number one impact,” on safety. Nikopoulos explains, “It’s quite important to get the proper information, to evaluate the data…and take decisions…to guarantee the health and safety of the athletes.”

    He describes several ways worsening conditions driven by climate change, like ocean acidification, heat waves, water pollution, and lightning storms, have recently disrupted or endangered major World Triathlon events worldwide:

    Extreme heat forced race delays and schedule changes at July’s World Cup event in Huatulco, Mexico, to protect athletes from dangerously high temperatures.

    Rampant bushfires compromised air quality during North American competitions, threatening athlete health.

    In Paris, the 2024 Olympic test event suffered canceled swim portions due to high river pollution levels caused by heavy rainfall.

    He explains, “There is a real direct connection with the issues we have with weather and climate change and how these directly affect our events.” 

    Across World Triathlon’s expensive operations, climate impacts span athlete health and safety, contingency planning, medical services, and more. Successfully executing events increasingly hinges on detailed climate risk mitigation and emergency response protocols.

    Safeguarding Athlete Health and Safety Above All

    Elaborating on these health impacts, Nikopoulos recalled a distressing, now infamous image from the 2016 World Triathlon event in Cozumel, Mexico. It depicts one elite athlete brother struggling to help another cross the finish line amid competition under extreme heat conditions.

    Nikopoulos remarked the photo “shows at the start what is the effect of extreme heat conditions on the athletes’ performance, which can have serious impact and even fatalities.” He adds that medical teams are having to respond to more and more heat-related health issues at competitions rather than just the typical injuries sustained during races like bike crashes.

    At these events, “health and safety of the athletes is paramount” above all other metrics like visitor experience, profitability, and more when conditions threaten danger. Mitigating athlete risk has also meant more frequent competition date or location changes to avoid forecasted climate hazards altogether.

    Leveraging Predictive Weather Intelligence for Proactive Adaptation

    World Triathlon has partnered with Tomorrow.io over the past two years to leverage its predictive and real-time weather and climate insights across the organization’s global event calendar to better predict and adapt to intensifying climate threats.

    Nikopoulos explains this advanced intelligence helps assess prospective host city climate risks during the initial bid process. Analyzing location-specific historical weather data enables World Triathlon to optimize proposed event timing and locales based on seasonal climate averages and extreme variability.

    Then, one week out from each race, World Triathlon activates real-time monitoring via Tomorrow.io’s platform for key race day weather parameters like air quality, lightning, heat index, and more. Automated alerts notify officials of any pending hazardous conditions up to two days in advance, allowing for more “prepared and managed responses to the unexpected” through pre-emptive contingency planning.

    For example, early extreme heat warnings in Huatulco enabled a crisis response meeting between World Triathlon and organizers to reschedule race start times before the event began. This moved competitions to cooler morning hours, keeping conditions safe despite extreme heat later in the day.

    Nikopoulos notes this major change would likely only have been possible with such short notice (just one day before) with advanced predictive intelligence. 

    The early warning and forecast accuracy empowered smooth coordination across stakeholders like broadcasters and local authorities to enact the schedule change.

    Building Climate Resilience Across the Sports Industry

    In the world of sports, early warnings about upcoming weather are crucial.

    Nikopoulos emphasizes the need for weather intelligence tools, saying, “Ordinary planning doesn’t exist anymore. Unfortunately, nowadays, contingency planning, risk management, in worst cases, even disaster management, is required” to ensure smooth event operations, continuity, and safety of everyone involved. 

    He strongly recommends that other sports organizations invest in advanced weather intelligence partners like Tomorrow.io to expand their climate risk preparation and real-time response capabilities greatly. 

    “Unless you have these things in place, you can’t be sure that the event will run smoothly. So by having technological partners like Tomorrow, you are actually in a position to go farther in this kind of planning and make sure that you are covered. 

    You can never say that you have covered everything, but at least you are in a better position for what you used to have, before.” 

    World Triathlon’s use case reveals the ability to optimize safety, planning, and scheduling for endurance sports events and highlights the need for other sports organizations to start integrating AI-powered weather intelligence today to forge ahead with greater resilience even as climate uncertainty mounts worldwide.

    Interested in watching the entire conversation?

    Check out the ClimaCon session featuring World Triathlon today.

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