Eliud Kipchoge’s INEOS 1:59 Challenge Costs and Compensation Revealed

Oil billionaire Jim Radcliffe reportedly spent $19 million USD, and the Olympic gold medalist received a substantial amount to participate

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One of the greatest feats in marathon history occurred in 2019 as Eliud Kipchoge shattered barriers by achieving the first-ever sub-two hour marathon in Vienna, Austria, as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Behind this groundbreaking feat stood Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the multi-billionaire and recent minority stakeholder in Manchester United, who played a pivotal role by financing Kipchoge’s race through his company, the petrochemical giant INEOS.

According to a report by Kenya’s Pulse Sports, Radcliffe spent USD $19 million on the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, and that Kipchoge pocketed “most of the money” when he delivered on a sub-two hour marathon at the event, bringing global attention and positive media coverage for INEOS in the process.

Kipchoge after breaking 2:00 in the marathon in 2019
Kipchoge after breaking 2:00 in the marathon in 2019

Beyond Kipchoge’s historic marathon, Ratcliffe’s INEOS has become a prominent figure in the world of sports, raising questions about greenwashing and sportswashing

The petrochemical giant has also been a key player in the revamping of Manchester United and holds the title sponsorship for the wealthiest UCI WorldTour cycling team, INEOS Grenadiers, to name a few of their other sporting ventures.

Accusations of greenwashing, or in the sports context, sportswashing, have been directed at INEOS due to its involvement in numerous high-profile sports ventures. 

Greenwashing involves creating a misleading impression of environmental responsibility, often diverting attention from the environmental impact of a company’s core activities.

Eliud Kipchoge's INEOS 1:59 Challenge Costs and Compensation Revealed 1
Photo Credit: Douglas Fugazi

INEOS, primarily engaged in the global production of petrochemicals and oil products, contributes millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, prompting scrutiny of its environmental claims.

INEOS’ foray into sports, including Kipchoge’s 1:59 Challenge, Manchester United’s restructuring, and sponsorship of the INEOS Grenadiers, has brought the company’s environmental practices under heightened scrutiny.

The juxtaposition of the company’s involvement in sports, traditionally associated with health and sustainability, with its core operations raises questions about the sincerity of INEOS’ environmental commitment.

Eliud Kipchoge's INEOS 1:59 Challenge Costs and Compensation Revealed 2

Despite the accusations, Ratcliffe and INEOS have consistently denied allegations of greenwashing through their sports ventures. The company’s founder, along with other stakeholders, maintains that their investments are driven by a genuine passion for athletics and a desire to contribute positively to the sporting landscape.

As the intersection of business and sports continues to evolve, the scrutiny of corporate environmental practices in the realm of sports is likely to persist, prompting a deeper exploration of the motivations behind such significant investments.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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