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Budapest to Host Inaugural World Athletics Ultimate Championship in 2026

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World Athletics announced the Ultimate Championship, a new biennial event starting in 2026 in Budapest, aimed at maintaining global audience engagement between World Championships. Featuring up to 16 top-ranked athletes per discipline, the event boasts a $10 million prize fund, with gold medalists receiving $150,000 each.

World Athletics announced on Monday, June 3, 2024, the launch of a new three-day global championship starting in 2026 in Budapest. This initiative aims to ensure track and field maintain a global audience in the years between the World Championships.

The World Athletics Ultimate Championship will occur biennially, with the inaugural event scheduled for September 11-13, 2026. Gold medalists will receive $150,000 (138,000 euros) each from an overall prize fund of $10 million, marking the largest prize pool in the sport’s history.

The event will be held every two years, coinciding with the interim years between the biennial outdoor World Championships, with the next championship set for Tokyo in 2025.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe stated that the timing of the Ultimate Championship would “ensure for the first time that athletics will enjoy a moment of maximum audience reach on an annual basis.”

“We aim to secure the significant viewership that our World Championships and Olympic Games attract,” Coe remarked during a conference call with international reporters. “We need to ensure that every year within the four-year cycle, we capture fans on television and extend the season as much as possible. It is essential to have athletes competing frequently.”

The new event will feature up to 16 of the world’s top-ranked athletes per discipline, with approximately 400 athletes participating overall. Field events will be direct finals, while track athletes will progress through semi-finals.

“By showcasing only, the best athletes and focusing on semi-finals and finals, we will create immediate performance pressure for those aiming to claim the title of the ultimate champion,” Coe explained. “We want the event to look and feel distinct, to be a spectacle that attracts new audiences.”

World Athletics has selected Budapest, which hosted the 2023 World Championships with near-capacity evening sessions, for this new event. Coe described those championships as “arguably our most successful.”

The venue for the 2028 Ultimate Championship has yet to be decided, but Coe indicated that Budapest might be considered again. “While it is possible to return to Budapest in 2028, our priority is to ensure we host the event in locations that not only offer financial incentives but also possess the capability and expertise to deliver a world-class championship. Hosting events in empty stadiums fails to serve the athletes, irrespective of prize money increases.”

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