The first recorded triathlon took place in San Diego, California on September 24, 1974. It was organized by the San Diego Track & Field Club as an alternative to the rigors of training on the track. The race, which took place in San Diego's Mission Bay, consisted of a 5.3-mile run, followed by a 5-mile cycle and a 600-yard swim in the Bay. A total of 46 athletes finished the race.
Triathlon grew rapidly from its humble beginnings in San Diego and within a matter of years it became one of the fastest growing sports all over the world. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was intrigued by the sport's meteoric growth and began discussions to include triathlon in the Olympic Games Programme in 1988. Then IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch arranged a meeting in Stockholm that year with the intention of including triathlon in the Olympic Games as soon as possible. At that meeting Canadian Les McDonald was selected as President to a working committee for triathlon, while Sweden's Sture Jonasson was elected as Secretary.
The International Triathlon Union was founded one year later, on April 1, 1989, at the first ITU Congress in Avignon, France. A total of 30 National Federations attended the initial Congress and preparations were made for the sport's first World Championships to be held in Avignon in August of 1989. At this meeting the Olympic distance was set at a 1.5-km swim, 40-km bike and 10-km run. More than 800 athletes representing 40 countries competed in the first World Championships.
Although founded in Avignon, ITU has maintained its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada since its inception and has since grown to include over 120 affiliated National Federations around the world. ITU began the World Cup series in 1991, staging 11 races in eight countries. The Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championships Series was created as ITU's top tier race series in 2009, staging eight races in eight different countries.
Triathlon was officially added to the Olympic Program by the LOC at its Congress in Paris in 1994. Triathlon made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Games in Sydney, with Switzerlands' Brigitte McMahon and Canada's Simon Whitfield earning the sport's first gold medals.
The USA and Henderson, Nevada are hosting the 2011 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships and anticipates that on each of the two days approximately 20,000-25,000 visitors will come to cheer on the world's best athletes with their cowbells, air horns and applause.