Many reactions to Ironman’s choice to ax Lake Tahoe runs – Across The Universe
September 30, 2015
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — The first full music album I ever listened to many years ago was "Tea for the Tillerman," the fourth studio record from Cat Stevens, released in 1970 and considered by many as the best collection of songs in the British-turned-Islam singer's impressive quiver.
While "Wild World" and "Father and Son" are the most recognizable songs on the album, the song I most fondly remember is its opening cut, "Where do the Children Play?", which remains my favorite tune by Stevens (who now goes by the name Yusuf Islam).
Simple in harmonic structure, the song serves as a metaphor to the advancement of mankind — and, the at-times negative impacts of population growth and environmental damage ("Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass, for your lorry loads pumping petrol gas").
The song's third and final section, however, most strongly bemoans the potential for not only ecological harm, but the future fracturing of society and human nature in the world:
"When you crack the sky, scrapers fill the air.
Will you keep on building higher til there's no more room up there?
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Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?"
I know we've come a long way, we're changing day to day, but tell me, where do the children play?"
So what does this all have to do with Lake Tahoe? Well, I found myself re-listening to the song again and again the past several days, ever since World Triathlon Corporation abruptly announced it will not return for future Ironman races here.
It was pretty significant news, and the thing I found truly fascinating was the dichotomy of reaction from local residents, home owners and renters, as well as business owners, tourism officials and others who have a stake, for whatever reason, at the lake.
On one side, you have the economic impact: One of the strategies of bringing Ironman to Lake Tahoe toward the end of the September was, beyond the importance of bringing more human-powered sports here, to show off Lake Tahoe and Truckee to visitors in a post-Labor Day, shoulder-season timeframe that typically was a mediocre business weekend.
Despite comments that us hosting from 2013-15 will pay off for many years to come, I feel Ironman pulling out of Tahoe is a major blow to the region's tourism-based economy, and businesses will feel the negative impacts, and that is not a good thing.
The other side, meanwhile, was represented through a pretty audible sigh of relief, mostly from locals and our working residents who found great frustration from the road closures and adverse side effects of hosting an event this large in their backyard.
"Good riddance" and "thank goodness" were two of the most common pieces of feedback I saw from locals on social media and beyond last week, and I totally understand their reaction. One less thing to clog up roads and lines at local businesses, correct?
A third element to all this is the environment. For the next two years, sans Ironman, we will not have a weekend loaded with thousands of "more people" — and, thus, the thousands of vehicle emissions and carbon footprint stains that come with it.
As Cat Stevens sang, our opinions are "changing day to day," but I think we all can agree we want what's best for Lake Tahoe's environment in the long haul. However, when it comes to hosting large-scale events like Ironman, are we doing more harm than good? Or, a better question: Will there ever be an acceptable middle ground?
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun. He may be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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