By Max Mason
For Geoff Wilson, the decision by Wilson Asset Management to sponsor Union Cycliste Internationale Road World Championships in Wollongong later this year was personal, dating back to a diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
It was about giving back to a sport and community which has allowed the 64-year-old to keep active.
“It started 15 years ago, I got osteoarthritis in my left hip and the surgeon said ‘you’ve got swimming or cycling’,” Mr Wilson told The Australian Financial Review.
The WAM founder gave swimming a go for six months, but found black-line fever – the highly repetitive nature of lap swimming – didn’t excite him, and something was missing.
“So, I started cycling. What I found with cycling is there is a lot more community. All of a sudden, you’re not cycling by yourself, you’re cycling in a peloton, it’s a bit more competitive. It’s an incredibly great physical activity when the knees and hips are giving up on running. Since I’ve been cycling the hip has been great.”
UCI Road World Championships will come to Wollongong (known by locals as ‘the Gong’) for a week from September 18, showcasing the South Coast’s beautiful coastal and mountain scenery, and putting the city on the map for a global audience of 300 million plus TV viewers.
The event – 11 races over eight days – will involve more than 1000 cyclists from 70 countries and include the Women Elite Road Race at 164.3 kilometres and the Men Elite Road Race at 266.9kms on the final weekend.
The route through Wollongong and the surrounding areas will include loops of picturesque Mt Keira.
It is estimated the event will be worth $95 million to the local economy, with around 300,000 spectators, and a global TV audience of 300 million viewers.
WAM will join as the foundation partner and will join with the local organising committee. The sponsorship is made by the investment manager, not the retail investors for whom he manages money.
“This is a significant event from an Australian context, a global cycling event that’s going to be held in Wollongong. This was an opportunity to be involved,” Mr Wilson said.
Former BHP Billiton executive and ex-Pacific National chief executive Dean Dalla Valle is Wollongong 2022’s chairman.
“To be tied up to something so large and international, I think, will be an opportunity for WAM to showcase the event to their clients as well,” Mr Dalla Valle said.
“I imagine many of their clients would be cyclists, and would certainly be keen to see the sport promoted, and see the country promoted. It’s a good restart for the Australian economy in many ways, it shows that we’re open to business.”
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