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Royal Docks: How Reset Connect brings people together to fight climate change

Inaugural event at Excel will see sustainability pioneers like Canary Wharf Group inspire others

Reset Connect CEO and co-founder Duncan Reid
Reset Connect CEO and co-founder Duncan Reid

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Duncan Reid has been an events man his whole career.

It started at university in the 1990s, organising parties with DJs at the students’ union.

Then there was a strategic move into the business sector, conveniently leaving Friday and Saturday nights free for attending music events rather than putting them on.

In 2010 he joined Clarion Events – one of the largest companies organising conferences, shows and exhibitions in the world – rising to become MD and executive vice president of its energy division.  

“I was already managing the move away from coal, gas, oil and fossil fuel extraction – there were big things happening with carbon emissions,” he said. “Then the pandemic hit.”

With the events sector among the hardest hit, Covid meant many shows didn’t take place for two years, contractors were left without work and organising companies laid off staff.

For Duncan, it was an opportunity to take a step back and decide on a future direction.

“I started looking around for what I wanted to do,” he said. “Then I realised sustainability should be my focus and that it was important that we fast-tracked as much of this sector as possible.

“The two big challenges before the pandemic were that the pace of adoption was not fast enough and – the really big one – was that, even if a company wanted to roll out sustainability, whatever they wanted to do, there was a big funding gap.

“For example, if you were a company that made ready meals and you wanted to move to using electric vehicles with refrigeration to transport them, then that would be quite a hassle for a small business.

“Big corporates can have a sustainability strategy and can appoint someone to oversee it, but for small businesses it’s quite a challenge.

“Then if you’re a startup, it’s hard enough to get your idea off the ground let alone managing your impact on the environment at the same time.”

That led Duncan to the idea for Reset Connect – a new conference and exhibition that is set to get its first outing over two days at Excel in Royal Docks.

Taking place on June 28 and 29, 2022 – during London Climate Action Week – the event will see more than 100 exhibitors and sustainability partners showcase their services and more than 150 speakers discussing a very wide range of topics.

Canary Wharf Group – long a pioneer in environmentally friendly development and stewardship – will be represented by head of sustainability Sophie Goddard at a panel discussion, starting at 11.15pm on the event’s second day.

She, together with representatives of Sintali, Savills Investment Management, Hark Systems and Mitie, will seek to illuminate processes and technology that can be implemented now to fight climate change.

That’s just one session in a packed programme and the two-day event will also see opening keynote speeches from Doughnut Economics Action Lab co-founder Kate Raworth on the first day and World Wildlife Fund chief executive Tanya Steele on the second.

Reset Connect aims to help businesses become more sustainable
Reset Connect aims to help businesses become more sustainable

With the Elizabeth Line’s arrival shrinking the gap between Canary Wharf and Custom House (the station adjacent to the venue) to three minutes, Reset Connect is also easily accessible. 

“The idea is really to pool the learnings that the corporate sector has and to share them among peers to help everyone benefit,” said Duncan.

“It’s analogous to what’s happened in finance with technology.

People would queue up in branches of banks to withdraw money and then go to another bank to pay that money into someone else’s account 15 years ago.

Now there’s an app on your phone, you’re sending money to someone else and you don’t even think about it.

“This is where we’re at with sustainability – this is where we move away from carbon quite massively.

“It’s really easy for us to keep using oil but then we certainly won’t be here in 100 years.

“So we need to try to work out how we can reduce carbon emissions on a scale similar to the fintech revolution. 

“That is quite daunting, because a lot of the technology is in the early stages of development, but we need to do something major, quickly because the dial isn’t moving fast enough.”

That’s exactly the issue that Reset Connect will be addressing – how to rapidly shift away from a system that destroys the planet to one that allows humanity to go on and thrive. It’s no small ambition.

“The point of the event is to get people who are already doing things well to talk about what they do, how to speed up adoption, what funding they use and whether they borrow money or use assets to do it so others can learn,” said Duncan.

“Obviously it’s a work in progress and it’s a really complex area. One of the reasons it’s called ‘Reset’ is because part of the issue is about how you measure success. 

“In the past that has always been linked to a profit measure but over the next 10 years it will increasingly become about impact. It’s about asking how we measure it, what we put our money into and what we really value.

“People are already talking about this in the corporate world, as are shareholders and the startup community.

“People also want to know how they can invest their pensions and savings in these areas.

“Some businesses may say that because they’re not listed it won’t affect them, but it will affect everyone. At some point you’ll be part of someone’s supply chain and that means you need to be thinking about it.

“Then there are the big fossil fuel companies – there are lots of pension funds invested in them so it’s really complex.

“Do you take the money out or do you find a way to work with them to be better, because the danger is that they will carry on being bad if you don’t?”

The show will take place at Excel in the Royal Docks
The show will take place at Excel in the Royal Docks

Duncan said there was a real appetite not only to tackle these topics, but also to do so in person with Reset Connect bringing together businesses, activists and politicians.

“I think the thing we really missed during the pandemic was people coming together, face-to-face,” he said. 

“The analogy I use about events is that they are like a football match.

“You can watch it on TV but it is so much better if you go to a game with five of your mates – it’s a completely different experience. That’s why we try and make as much of our content free as possible.

“While Covid fast-tracked the adoption of video call technology, things are so much more productive when you can shake someone’s hand and see and feel the products they are selling first-hand.

“I think that, if we’re going to tackle some of the climate challenges we’ve got, then we’ll achieve more if we’re able to get round a table, meet at a stand or talk about it over a beer with someone you’ve unexpectedly met but share a common purpose with.

“A lot of it is about serendipity and also discovering the things you didn’t know, but really needed to. 

“Of course you can sit at home and google ‘cities’ or ‘city infrastructure’ and that will give you a load of information, some of which may well be very interesting.

“But it won’t be the same as having Sophie Goddard from Canary Wharf Group tell you about its partnership with the Eden Project and what their vision is for that.

“You might stumble across some details on page 25 of your search – but that’s not the same as having a leading developer telling you how it builds cities for the future, what that looks like and what the partnership between business and finance needs to look like to make it happen.

“At Reset Connect, you’ll hear from experts like the Mayor Of Copenhagen, for example, telling you what that city has done to become a world leader in sustainability.

“And all of this is just one stop away from Canary Wharf on the Elizabeth Line.”

  • Reset Connect’s exhibition is free for visitors to attend with registration. Access to the conference is via delegate pass. 

For startups, scaleups, not-for-profits, academic institutions and public sector organisations these start at £295 per person. Advance delegate passes cost £600.

Readers can get 25% off their booking at Reset Connect by using code WL25.

Duncan said in-person events were great for sharing ideas
Duncan said in-person events were great for sharing ideas

Read more: Why the Elizabeth Line is a game changer for events at Excel

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How the arrival of the Elizabeth Line is transformational

Excel’s CEO on the myriad benefits Crossrail brings both to the events venue and London as a whole

Jeremy Rees says the Elizabeth Line will have a huge impact on Excel
Jeremy Rees says the Elizabeth Line will have a huge impact on Excel

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On my way to interview Excel CEO Jeremy Rees, I caught the DLR to Custom House. Despite it being mid-morning, it was packed.

Not quite rush hour, but filled with smartly dressed people, lanyards and passes hung round their necks.

The Royal Docks’ vast events venue had 11 shows on last week and the infrastructure was showing signs of strain. 

With the arrival of Crossrail, that may have been the last time I use the DLR to make that trip.

The Elizabeth Line’s slick new service offers alternatives that make some routes on public transport completely redundant.

No longer will those in Canary Wharf trundle on little red robot trains through Blackwall, East India, Canning Town and Royal Victoria to get to Excel. 

Something lost, but so much gained. Crossrail will have an enormous impact on London as a whole, but its launch – even in its current, limited form where it operates as three distinct railways – will especially be felt in east and south-east London.

Here prosperity has followed connection – the Jubilee line extension delivered the fillip necessary for Canary Wharf to flourish and Stratford to take off after the 2012 Olympics.

Now the purple thread of rapid rail will pull Abbey Wood, Thamesmead, Woolwich and the northern strip of the Royal Docks right into central London.

All will be connected to the Wharf as never before, knitting these areas together to bring change and opportunity, as space is distorted and journey times to west central London are cut dramatically.

This is the dawn of a new chapter and, perhaps, few are as well placed to ask what might be written in it as Jeremy Rees, given its myriad benefits to Excel’s operation.

“Crossrail answers one of the very large questions in the capital, which is: ‘How do you get from west London to east London with as little friction as possible in a comfortable environment, at a sensible price?” he said.

Custom house is about three minutes from Canary Wharf via Crossrail
Custom house is about three minutes from Canary Wharf via Crossrail

“From our customers’ perspective, they’re really excited about it, because while they’ve run successful events, exhibitions, conferences and corporate events, there was that element of friction.

“Much of our audience is international, largely flying in through Heathrow and the Elizabeth Line very dramatically reduces the time it takes to get to Excel.

“In the past, delegates will have paid for taxis that might have taken anything from two to three hours to get to the venue. When direct services begin, that will be cut to a little over 40 minutes. 

“So, theoretically, that means people can spend that time trading, engaging and talking with their prospective customers at the venue.

“That’s quite an interesting prospect – if you extrapolate the figures based on the million visitors who came to Excel in 2019, with 90% coming through Heathrow, that’s 900,000 people spending an extra two hours here, which is 1.8million meeting hours.

“That’s an awful lot of engagement with committed people who have come from abroad to attend an event.”

It’s tempting, when writing about Crossrail, to simply descend into stats. The line brings 68% more people within 45 minutes of Excel and a massive 9.2million to within two hours of the venue, for example.

Similar stories about other organisations will be written across London, of course. But equally important will be the psychological impact.

“A very large amount of decision making in the industry is based on an emotional response,” said Jeremy. “Where there was travel friction that people may have worried about, that has been eliminated.

“This is why Crossrail is a truly exciting, amazing project. London was already an incredibly strong proposition relative to other top tier cities around the world and this opening really gives us an opportunity to shine a light on what we have to offer.

“People will be able to move very quickly and easily – suddenly Excel is Canary Wharf’s exhibition and convention centre – it’s a few minutes away, less than the time it takes to walk the length of the venue.

“If you think what that means, are we also now able to fulfil that role for Whitechapel, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Paddington?

“I think it will drive a different type of audience for us too – people who are time-poor for whom popping across London used to be too much, but who can now make a one-hour trip to deliver a keynote presentation because it’s only 10 or 15 minutes on the Elizabeth Line.

“We’re expecting a boost in the seniority of visitors, and for people to stay at events longer.

“All of this adds yet another layer of value, demonstrably proving internationally that London is a great proposition, and that investment in infrastructure is really important.

“It’s something the Mayor Of London has advocated for and pushed, and it’s a huge credit to TfL for pushing this forward, as well as the Government for being supportive.

Connected like never before - Excel in Royal Docks
Connected like never before – Excel in Royal Docks

“The great challenge that London has is that it’s in a very competitive marketplace internationally, and, in order to continue to thrive and not just survive, we need to continue to invest in our infrastructure, to enhance our product, to underline why we’re a great place to live, engage, work, invest and base your business.

“It’s a great place for events because we’re surrounded by leading businesses in IT, insurance, finance, pharma and life sciences.

“Making Excel really easy to get to for these people means the shows we host will be even more successful, creating a virtuous circle as greater numbers of people will want to come to London. Crossrail is a big shot in the arm for business – we expect our audiences to increase between 10%- 20%.”

Locally, it’s relatively simple to join the dots. The Elizabeth Line will have the obvious impact of improving connectivity for those living in Royal Docks and along the rest of the line.

But the expected transformational benefit on businesses based close to Custom House should also deliver jobs, activity and focus.

Those extra visitors will need services – firms that depend on footfall can expect a significant boost and that means jobs, fresh openings and development.

Excel itself is embarking on a huge expansion to its east to provide an extra 25,000sq m of event space, increasing the venue’s overall floorspace by 25%.

“From the perspective of our owner – Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company – Crossrail forms a really important pillar in our investment in that extension,” said Jeremy.

“To the question: ‘Is London, the Government and business investing in transportation infrastructure?’, the answer is a resounding: ‘Yes’.

“So we’re playing our part by investing and enhancing our facilities to make us more attractive as a cultural asset and maximise everyone’s experience when they come to visit our capital. It really adds to what is already a compelling proposition and it’s going to be great for the Royal Docks.

“The Elizabeth Line will help create social mobility and opportunity as businesses here open, grow and expand. It also transforms where people can live in terms of their commute to places like Excel, Canary Wharf and Paddington.

“It’s also going to create competitiveness around the hotel proposition here, given the easy access to other parts of London.”

There’s also a story to be told about sustainability. Jeremy said Crossrail’s ability to join up areas of London could mean those travelling internationally for business would be more likely to spend longer in the capital rather than taking trips to multiple destinations.

“Aside from the boost to public sector travel, which is great for the environment, for international delegates, the reduction in travel friction the Elizabeth Line brings means you can connect to the wider ecosystem more easily,” he said.

“You can be at an amazing seminar at Excel and a couple of workshops in the morning, then whizz to Tottenham Court Road for a spectacular lunch and be back in an hour and 10 minutes for your afternoon.

“That’s got to be more compelling than being in one place at one time. London is getting to grips with the question of how you square off trying to drive a large amount of international business and tourism with the carbon impact that has.

“One of the solutions to that will be creating carbon avoidance, which means doing a lot on a single trip to London and then leaving.

“That’s interesting for the capital because, if you’re travelling to second, third or fourth tier cities, you’re likely to only be able to do one thing before you have to fly somewhere else.

“In London, you can easily combine meetings with cultural experiences, perhaps with the whole family but only travelling once, probably saving six or seven trips elsewhere and so creating a carbon deficit.”

Read more: Discover the arts boom Woolwich Works is delivering

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Royal Docks: Why the Excel expansion will have an impact way beyond east London

Venue CEO Jeremy Rees explores the plans’ impact locally and across the whole of the capital

Excel CEO Jeremy Rees
Excel CEO Jeremy Rees – image Matt Grayson

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Jeremy Rees is in a buoyant mood. The bustle of the main boulevard is a welcome sight for the CEO of the Excel centre beside Royal Victoria Dock as crowds of delegates attending events arrive and depart. 

But the fact that the venue is set to host 60 exhibitions this autumn – a 50% increase on a typical year – isn’t the reason for his upbeat demeanour. It’s the future. 

Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC), which owns Excel, recently won planning approval from Newham Council for its expansion plan. 

Its proposal will see floorspace at the venue increase by 25% including 25,000sq m of event space, a high end convention space, meeting rooms and catering facilities. 

The plans, which will now be referred to the Mayor Of London for consideration, also include a substantial investment in greenery along the dock edge and a new park to the east of the site.

Jeremy said: “It’s extremely exciting and it’s been a long time in the planning. The idea is to extend Excel to the east, across the car park that’s there at the moment, so there’ll be a continuous, long, straight space.

“It will be double-decked – downstairs will be a flat floor events space and upstairs will be a proper modern convention space.

“The world has moved on in the last five years and customers’ expectations have shifted.

“What they want are extraordinarily good, modern facilities that are intimate, but can open up to really large spaces for 2,000 to 3,000 people for a banquet or a presentation.

“There are a good number of European events that can’t be hosted in the capital at the moment but, if we build it, they will come.

“London is an incredibly strong proposition for events and it always has been.

“As we come out of the pandemic, I think the same sorts of influences we have seen in previous recessions will mean people will focus their spend on top cities and events, where they know they can get a fantastic return on their investment.

“London is super-accessible, it’s worth coming, we’ve got an amazing cultural proposition and we’re trading now.

“European and American tech companies, for example, want to be back and operating but their expectations have shifted a bit.

“At Excel the boulevard is shared space with halls either side.

An artist's impression of how the expansion will look
An artist’s impression of how the expansion will look

“The advantage of the expansion is that exhibitors can own it completely, while everything else continues to operate.

“That means that, if you’re very particular about your branding – a big IT company, for instance – you can have a bright, modern space where you can control the entire environment.

“When you look at demand analysis across London and the UK, we don’t have sufficient congress space, and Phase Three will provide that in spades.

“It will bring brand new events, delegates and exhibitors to London and that’s part of a virtuous circle for the city. If you are hosting world class events you will have senior management teams from world class companies coming over for them.

“They will see London is fantastic and start to have conversations with promotional agencies, asking how they can get their roots and foundations into the city.

“So this project isn’t just about events, it’s about their far wider economic impact, about driving London forward and having a fit-for-purpose convention and exhibition centre here.”

An artist's impression of how the expansion will look
An artist’s impression of how the expansion will look

Excel also hopes the expansion, which could be open by 2024 if work is allowed to start next year, will have a similarly positive effect on its immediate surroundings.

“The Royal Docks is an enterprise zone and a big regeneration area and we all feel collectively that, if you can be a good neighbour and you can create value, then everyone wins,” said Jeremy.

“We have been talking with Newham Council and the GLA about how we can invest more in the local infrastructure, what we can do to improve the dock edge and the walkways and to make sure the landscaping is welcoming and engaging.

“In times past I’m not sure Excel has always been that welcoming to the community – it’s just been about exhibitions. There’s a chance for us to build more spaces that are generally increasingly used. 

“We have 700m of south-facing dock edge and one of the commitments I’ve made is to have, over the next couple of years, a series of exciting events and attractions that feed in more strongly to Excel as a destination where you can come as a family, a local resident or a delegate who’s flown in for a pharmacy congress and wants to have a nice evening.

 “We want to be both inward and outward facing and we’ll be announcing some really brilliant developments over the next 12 months.

“With Crossrail services coming, when the Elizabeth line starts running to Custom House, there will be an increasing opportunity for people to pop in.

“It will transform the way people use London and that connectivity means Canary Wharf, for example, will be three minutes away, so companies there will be able to use Excel as their convention centre.

“It goes both ways – the interdependence of the two will be quite powerful. Events that historically required a commitment of time to come here will now need only minutes.

“It will also open up people’s living and working arrangements locally.

“Having the Mayor Of London based at The Crystal in Royal Victoria Dock will also shine a light on the area.

“There’ll be a lot of investment partners, cultural partners and many others who wouldn’t have thought about living here, who will see it, view it, and actually be quite surprised about the opportunities the area presents and how they might fit into it.

“It’s a real vote of confidence in Royal Docks that that’s happening.

“Before 2000 Excel didn’t exist. Since then there have probably been between 45million and 50million people who have visited the place, it was a venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games and more recently served as a Nightingale Hospital and a vaccination centre.

“The events we host have an enormous economic benefit for London and we are increasingly thinking in a developmental way – that we’re more than a venue.

“If we can take that strategic leap we can have an even greater positive impact in the future.” 

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Royal Docks: Hyrox debut at Excel will be UK first for the emerging fitness race

Co-created by German Olympian Moritz Fürste, the event will see thousands compete at the venue

Hyrox co-founder Moritz Fürste
Hyrox co-founder Moritz Fürste

It’s fair to say Moritz Fürste has a bit of a soft spot for east London.

The German won the second of his two Olympic Gold medals for hockey at the 2012 Games in Stratford, celebrating victory in Canary Wharf – although he can’t remember exactly where. The party was obviously a good one.  

 But what do you do after you’ve reached the pinnacle of success in your chosen sport? 

In Mo’s case, the answer is to team up with global sports event expert Christian Toetzke and advertising and marketing specialist Michael Trautmann to create something new. Then spread it all over the world.

Hyrox is that thing and it’s set to arrive for the first time in the UK at Excel in Royal Docks on September 25 with sister events in Birmingham on October 30 and in Manchester on January 29 as its fourth season progresses. But what exactly is it?

“Hyrox is a new sport that doesn’t fit into any existing category,” said Mo. “The idea was not just to create an event, it was about founding a complete new sport in the world. We’re pretty convinced that we’ve discovered a field where there is a niche not used before.

“Go back 10 years and people would go to the gym, but they were often basketball players, football players or whatever.

“Nowadays more that 50% of the people that go the gym say that fitness is their sport, so that was the founding idea of our company. We had this thought of a competition, a race for those people.

“People want to show their skills and what they’ve learned. Fitness people are often very competitive, but there’s no obvious way to showcase what you’ve got.

“Of course, there are very cool sports like Crossfit, which is like for the top 0.1% of the fitness world. Then there are obstacle races, which are cool, but they’re not meant to be competitive – they’re more about completion.

“Hyrox is a mass participation event for fitness, just like triathlon is a mass participation event for endurance. Essentially it’s a combination of fitness and running, so that’s why I call it a race.”

Participants complete eight, 1km runs during the race
Participants complete eight, 1km runs during the race

The format is comparatively simple – eight separate exercises separated by eight 1k runs. The aim is to complete the whole course in the fastest time possible.

“The exercises are always the same,” said Mo. “The eight workouts after each run are always in the same order and they are doing 1km on a SkiErg, which is like a vertical rowing machine, then a sled push, where you have to push it over 50 metres of carpet.

Next you have to pull the sled back, then there are some burpee broad jumps for 80 metres in total and 1km on a rowing machine followed by a farmers carry with kettlebells.

“Then there are the sandbag lunges, with the weight on your back for 100 metres. The whole thing finishes with 75 or 100 wall balls.

“It’s always the same workout, because we are convinced that successful sports all over the world don’t change their logic every year. I think that people want to get better at what they do.

“The first question people ask when you finish a Marathon is what time did you finish in? Everybody can compare it, and then the next time you start you can compare it to your own time.”

Burpees are also part of the challenge
Burpees are also part of the challenge

Mo himself completed the course in an hour and 20 minutes – about 15 minutes quicker than the average men’s open race time – and holds the current Hyrox office record. 

With events held across Europe and the USA, the current world record stands at 55 minutes while Mo said the slowest recorded time was “by a really nice guy in Chicago” who did it in three hours and 25 minutes. 

With around 3,000 competitors at each event, a battalion of judges keeps watch over each event to ensure nobody is cheating. Those flouting the rules get a warning, a second warning and are then disqualified. 

The UK represents a significant expansion for Hyrox, which will hold 35 events worldwide this season. Competitors compete for a place at the World Championships, where those with the very best times vie for the title.

“We’re excited to be in the UK, because the UK is a massive fitness market,” said Mo.

“The percentage of people signed up to gyms there is so much higher than the rest of Europe, except for Scandinavia for some reason.

“It’s very interesting to see the amount of money that’s spent in that area. People who do stuff like that buy the best shoes they can possibly get, because even the worst runner doesn’t want their shoes to be any worse than they already are.

“London is the biggest city in Europe, so we’re more than excited to get over to Excel. 

“The biggest difficulty for us, regarding the UK events and introducing Hyrox to a new market is that people think it’s not accessible from a strength and performance perspective – that’s so far from the truth.

“We have a 99% finish rate – 99 out of 100 who start, finish the course. It is tough, really tough, but it is accessible – everybody can do it.

“There’s not a workout where people keep telling me that they couldn’t move the sled – we haven’t seen that, ever. It’s on a carpet, it’s tough, but you will finish it. That’s really important for us to explain from the beginning.

“Also, if they don’t want to do it by themselves then they can do it in the doubles competition, because there’s the mixed option where you share the workload.”

The sled push is followed by the sled pull
The sled push is followed by the sled pull

Prospective individual participants can register for the standard men’s and women’s races or the pro men’s or pro women’s competitions for £74 per person.

Single sex or mixed doubles registration costs £129, with spectator tickets available for £10, including a £5 gift voucher for use at Hyroxworld.

“Training for Hyrox is very tough and you have to run, so endurance is very important but, at the same time, you have to be a complete athlete and training for that is healthy,” said Mo. “It’s not like doing a marathon which is very hard on your feet and calves.

“Not a single muscle gets bigger than it should be – you don’t have to run 42k – it’s eight times one and that’s a big difference.

“Running 8km is one thing, but running eight singles is a completely different ballgame.

“I really think Hyrox has the potential to be an Olympic sport one day. It’s the perfect competition missing from the fitness world.

“Many people have been waiting for this kind of race to show up. Will we be at the Olympics in five years? Probably not. In 10? I don’t know, but I think that’s the path we should aim for.

“If not in the Olympics, at least making it that big and, if that doesn’t work out, we’d like to grow it to something like the Triathlon World Series or the Marathon World Series and have it known as this huge world fitness event or race that people like to attend.

“In Germany we have about 450 gym partnerships – places that pay a small licence fee for a year to use the name and the workouts, which is a very cool offline marketing tool for us and allows people to train.

“I know that we have 18 partnerships in the UK so far and counting. That’s something we’d like to expand as Hyrox continues to grow.”

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