Eco-Challenge was created by Mark Burnett. Inspired by a Los Angeles Times article about Gerald Fusil’s Raid Gauloises adventure race in Costa Rica, Burnett formed a team and competed. The first event in the Sultanate Of Oman aired on Prime Sports; produced and directed by Mike Sears, the show received an Emmy nomination. Although Burnett’s teams did poorly, Burnett decided to create a similar race in North America. Burnett purchased the rights from Fusil and set out to make the Eco-Challenge the world’s premier adventure race. Mark came to Mike and Norsemen to run the television production of the event.
In the Eco-Challenge, each team comprised a mandatory mix of both men and women racing non-stop, 24 hours a day, over a 300-mile (500 km) course in some of the world’s most rugged terrain. Teams participated in such disciplines as trekking, whitewater canoeing, horseback riding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, mountaineering, camel-back riding, and mountain biking. The film crews (17 in all) made the same trek while capturing the incredible spectacle of the event.
The first Eco-Challenge was held in the Utah desert and was filmed by Norsemen and edited and televised by MTV. The next event moved to British Columbia and The Discovery Channel, where both the television production and editing were run by Norsemen and the five-hour special went on to be nominated for seven Emmys. The Eco-Challenge became an international hit for Discovery and later USA Networks, and was the beginning of Burnett’s incredible television success.