Eco-Challenge officials confirm that the ninth edition of this expedition-style adventure race, which began in 1995 in Utah, would skip calendar year 2003 "because of the uncertainty of the world situation," according to media representative Monica Martino. Martino said that such uncertainty included the Iraq war. However, Martino added, plans are on for the next Eco-Challenge to be held "in the first quarter of 2004" at a site to be determined.
Several professional adventure racers said that the first choice of possible sites for the 2004 Eco-Challenge was Lesotho, South Africa, but that all details had not been worked out. Eco-Challenge CEO Mark Burnett was not available for comment until next week, said Martino, who could not confirm any site.
Another factor in shifting to a later date might be securing a new television contract. Eco-Challenge began with broadcasting the first events on the Discovery Channel, then USA Network. The USA Network contract expired after the 2002 Fiji Eco-Challenge, conducted last fall, and will not be renewed. Several adventure-racing professionals said that Burnett, who also produces the smash hit reality series Survivor, was attempting to negotiate a deal with a major -- not cable -- network for the Eco-Challenge broadcast.