ORGANISERS of this year’s Edinburgh Ironman event, which brought disruption to roads across the county, told a community councillor “people would not come” if they included East Lothian in its title.

The claim comes as it was revealed that East Lothian Council paid organisers of the summer event an undisclosed sum to help stage it in the county, while organisers charged people who wanted to park in a free community car park £10 to use it on the day.

Graeme Hutchison, from Prestonpans Community Council, said that he challenged organisers following the July event over the decision not to mention the county in its title. But he said he was told it would not appeal to people if it was given an East Lothian branding.

The comment has been described by East Lothian MSP Iain Gray as “very insensitive”.

A spokesperson for the Ironman endurance event insisted they had been “misinterpreted”.

Mr Hutchison told the community council: “I asked why East Lothian is not included in the title and the response was ‘it is an international event and if we put East Lothian in the title people would not come’.”

Mr Hutchison said he contacted the organisers of the event, which was held on Sunday, July 2, after the community council received numerous complaints about issues, including road closures and noise.

He said that the biggest number of complaints were made about music being played over a tannoy system from 6am as the competition, which began at 6.50am, got under way.

There were also concerns about £10 parking charges imposed at the Greenhills car park.

Mr Hutchison said that when he challenged stewards at the parking area he was told the event had hired the land from ScottishPower and was simply “recouping the rent costs”.

But ScottishPower this week revealed that the event was allowed to use the car park free.

A spokesperson for ScottishPower, which leases the car park to the council, said: “We can confirm there was no charge for use of the land on the day.”

And ScottishPower pledged to stop the organisers from cashing in at any future competition.

Ironman Edinburgh has already announced plans to return to the county next summer.

Organisers said: “Even though we strive for a perfect race we do not always get everything right, especially for a first-time event, and will certainly look to make improvements.”

Though organisers are already promoting next year’s Ironman Edinburgh event on their website, talks between East Lothian Council and VisitScotland about the return of the event were only held this week. However, any discussions do not appear to have included a change to the event’s name.

Iain Gray said: “I think most county residents understand that events which start and finish in Edinburgh are likely to be badged ‘Edinburgh’. However, it is true that more and more of them significantly take place in East Lothian and it would be good if organisers could do all they reasonably can to reflect that.

“The Ironman did cause a lot of road closures and this comment from the organiser is very insensitive I think.”

But organisers told the Courier: “Although the event is titled IRONMAN 70.3 Edinburgh, all descriptions of the course indicate the inclusion of East Lothian.

“While a large portion of the race does go through East Lothian, the event finish line and run course is in Edinburgh, meaning the largest amount of time is spent in Edinburgh. It is customary for an event of this nature to be named after where the athlete village or finish line is located or to a destination that is a well-known attraction to international visitors. This gives potential visitors a recognisable reference when deciding to travel to the event. An example of this is IRONMAN Barcelona, which takes place nearly 60km from Barcelona in Calella.

“Funding and sponsorship also plays a part in the naming convention of a race.”

East Lothian Council confirmed it did give funding to this year’s Ironman event, although the amount was not disclosed.

A spokesperson said: “The council contributed some funding to the event as part of a wider initiative supporting events that attract visitors and bring economic benefits to the area. A full report on these will be compiled in due course.”

A report on the impact and value of Ironman to East Lothian is expected to be published by VisitScotland in October.