By James Crook

itutriathlonFebruary 18 - The International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon series have announced record television viewing figures for 2012, with an increase of 18 per cent recorded, according to analysis independently conducted by IFM Sports.

Broadcast time reached over 1,000 hours for the first time as viewing figures rose 168 per cent from the competition's inception, just after the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The broadcast analysis shows that the most-viewed race of the year was the seventh stage of the 2012 series, held in Yokohama, Japan, which gathered 1.2 billion contacts, which links broadcasting time and audience rating per-programme on presumed 30 second-intervals.

"Triathlon is a dynamic sport, with constant lead changes and surprise finishes," said ITU President and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Marisol Casado.

"Its unpredictable nature provides exciting entertainment for viewers watching from home."

triathlonswimmingThe ITU World Triathlon series saw significant growth in television viewership last year

The ITU World Triathlon series was broadcast by 40 television partners worldwide in 160 countries, with the success of triathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games also having a positive impact on the sport.

In the UK, over 4.7 million people watched Lisa Norden of Sweden take gold in a photo-finish with Nicola Spirig of Switzerland on BBC, with even higher figures for the men's event as 5.6 million tuned in to see British brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee take gold and bronze respectively.

The 2013 ITU World Triathlon series is due to commence on April 6 in Auckland, with record-numbers of amateur competitors expected to compete along with the elite athletes.

Competitors will also be given the opportunity to race on the course used for the 2012 Games in Hyde Park during the Grand Finals of the series.

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