SEPTEMBER 17 - TRIATHLON is to be given a a major shake-up in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics with the introduction of a new international Formula One-style World Championship circuit, it was announced today.
Instead of a single World Championships, won this year in Vancouver by Britain's Helen Tucker (pictured), from next year there will be a series of events.
The new format will consist of six World Championship events plus a Grand Final creating an exclusive high quality global series, organisers hope.
In 2010 the series will be expanded to a maximum of eight events in total.
The new series will begin in March next year, with events to take place on a monthly basis until September, except in summer Olympic years when the Grand Final will be moved to October or November.
The International Triathlon Union (ITU), the governing body of the sport, will collaborate with Lagardère Sports, the sports division of French media giant Lagardère to create and deliver the new series, they said.
Paul Coleman, the ITU managing director of the World Championship series and architect of the deal with Lagardère Sports said: "This is a perfect marriage of two professional organisations with complementary skills and expertise.
"This combination will create a powerful platform to establish a top quality sports product that will completely transform triathlon at the top of the sport."
Lagardère Sports will work with ITU on multiple levels, it was announced.
Olivier Guiguet, the chief executive of Lagardère Sports, said: "This new world series which we have founded jointly with ITU is a natural consequence of our corporate ambition to join the profound expertise of professional sports marketing and sports event organisation under one roof.
"Our two companies SPORTFIVE and UPSOLUT provide the means and instruments to deliver a successful world series for our partner ITU."
SPORTFIVE, who held the broadcasting rights for this year's European Football Championships in Switzerland and Austria, will be directly responsible for the sale of global sponsorship rights for the series, as well as centrally managing TV production and distribution.
Richard Worth, the chief executive of SPORTFIVE, said: "SPORTFIVE has become the world's number one football agency by selling TV and advertising rights for our international partners.
"We have kept expanding into other areas of sports and are more than happy to join this unique project in the fascinating sport of triathlon.
"SPORTFIVE will supply the underlying requirements for the new global series - a strong circle of sponsorship partners and global TV coverage including the TV live production."
A major feature of the partnership is that each event will be guaranteed an international live high definition signal, to be distributed to the world's major television broadcasters.
UPSOLUT, the Lagardère-owned agency behind events such as the highly successful 2007 Hamburg BG Triathlon World Championships in Germany and cycling's Tour of Germany will help co-ordinate and organise the events applying the standards achieved in Hamburg as a global model, ITU officials said.
Christian Toetzke, the chief executive of UPSOLUT, said: "UPSOLUT has successfully directed its core expertise of creating big events of endurance sports into the international sphere.
"We are looking forward to playing a part in this joint effort of setting up a new World Championship series for this booming yet very young sport.
"This series we create will not only be a competition for the world's best athletes in the various cities but an event for the masses where thousands will be able to participate and enjoy their passion for triathlon."
ITU is in the process of evaluating host cities for World Championship series events, which could included London.
The full schedule and calendar is planned to be announced in early November so interested cities still have an opportunity to apply.
The events are expected to take place in the heart of city centres and include mass participation races.
Germany's newly crowned Olympic champion Jan Frodeno said: "This is fantastic for triathlon.
"It is similar to F1 racing where the top athletes are battling head-to-head.
"Using the Hamburg [World Cup] model is ideal as having 100,000 spectators and TV makes it easier for us to market ourselves and as it snowballs the top athletes will want to come."