World Athletics adrenaline-rush spectacle



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Inaugural World Athletics Ultimate Championship to be hosted in Budapest Image: Magyar Atlétika Hungarian Athletics (Facebook)

The World Athletics announced on June 3rd the launch of the World Athletics Ultimate Championship, a groundbreaking new global championship event set to transform the athletics calendar and define which athlete is the best of the best – pitting the world champions, the Olympic champions, the Wanda Diamond League winners, and the year’s best performing athletes against each other, to crown the ultimate champion.

‘worldathletics.org’ stated that highlighting this revolutionary competition is a record-setting prize pot of US$10 million, the largest ever offered in the history of track and field athletics – with gold medalists set to receive US$150,000. This innovative event, debuting from September 11th-13th, 2026, and set to be held every two years, will first be hosted in Hungary’s capital city of Budapest, promising a spectacular conclusion to the Summer athletics season.

Monaco-based the World Athletics, formerly known as the International Amateur Athletic Federation and the International Association of Athletics Federations and formerly abbreviated as the IAAF, is the international governing body for the sport of athletics, covering track and field, cross-country running, road running, race walking, mountain running, and ultra running.

The Wanda Diamond League is an annual series of elite track and field athletic competitions comprising 15 of the best invitational athletics meetings. The series sits in the top tier of the World Athletics one-day meeting competitions. The inaugural season was held in the year 2010.

‘worldathletics.org’ further stated that designed as the ultimate season finale with an aim to captivate millions of television viewers worldwide, the global championship event will feature a thrilling and fast-moving new format for athletics. Taking place over three evening sessions, each under three hours in duration, the Ultimate Championship will showcase the best of athletics, including sprints, middle and long-distance races, relays, jumps, and throws, ensuring a spectacle that both existing and new fans will not want to miss. The athletes will represent their national teams to ensure that individual success is underpinned by national pride.

Setting a new benchmark for financial rewards in the sport, the World Athletics Ultimate Championship will feature a total prize pot of US$10 million, underscoring the World Athletics’ commitment to pay its athletes more, provide them with additional earning opportunities and increase their recognition. All the athletes competing at the championship will be financially rewarded and the ultimate champions will receive US$150,000 each. The athletes will also benefit from greater promotional rights, allowing them to commercially activate and enhance their personal profiles.

Chosen following a competitive process – which saw interest from a number of major global Cities – and after hosting arguably the most successful World Athletics Championships in history last year, Budapest will welcome nearly 400 of the world’s top athletes for the inaugural World Athletics Ultimate Championship from September 11th-13th, 2026.

Said Seb Coe, World Athletics President, “With only the best of the best on show and cutting straight to the semi-finals and the finals, we will create an immediate pressure to perform for the athletes aiming to claim the title of the ultimate champion. The World Athletics Ultimate Championship will be high on action and excitement for fans, setting a new standard for the track and field events. Featuring athletics’ biggest stars, it will be a must-watch global sports event which means the track and field will host a major global championship in every single year, ensuring for the first time that the athletics will enjoy a moment of maximum audience reach on an annual basis.”

Observed Jon Ridgeon, World Athletics head honcho, “By embracing innovation and breaking away from the traditional models, we are looking to reach a broader audience, particularly the younger fans, and elevate the entire sport. There will be a strong focus on the television audiences, with an aim to reach the biggest global audience possible. We also want to enhance the viewing experience, both at home and in the stadium, so we are looking at what the new competition innovations can be introduced, all of which will be thoroughly tested in advance. We truly believe this will be a game changer for our entire sport.”

Added Balázs Furjes, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member for Hungary and Previous Co-Leader of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 Organising Committee, “Budapest is truly honored to be the inaugural Host City for the highly innovative World Athletics Ultimate Championship. Having successfully hosted the 2023 World Athletics Championships, the recent World Aquatics Championships, major Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) events, and many more, Budapest is ready to deliver again. Budapest is truly one of global sport’s capital Cities and 2026 will be a very special year as we host the UEFA Champions League Final in the new 67,215-capacity Puskás Aréna and then later that Summer the World Athletics Ultimate Championship in the brand-new 36,000-capacity National Athletics Centre. Staging the Ultimate Championship will be a great chance to prove it again, in front of the passionate, sport loving fans, to celebrate the athletes from all over the world. Because we just love sport and hosting the world.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a non-Governmental sports organization based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Founded in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin and Demetrios Vikelas, it is the authority responsible for organizing the modern Olympic Games.

Nyon (Switzerland)-based the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach football in Europe and the transcontinental countries of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kazakhstan, as well as the West Asian countries of Cyprus, Armenia and Israel. The UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Since 2022, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national teams and clubs from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.

The UEFA Champions League is an annual club association football competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and contested by the top-division European clubs, deciding the competition winners through a round robin group stage to qualify for a double-legged knockout format and a single-leg final.

Informed Adam Schmidt, State Secretary of Sports in Hungary, “After the success of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, Hungary started discussions with World Athletics about how could we remain active participants in the international field, adding value to the universal family of athletics. Hosting the inaugural edition of the Ultimate Championship is an excellent occasion to keep the pace and together with President Coe we have even more plans to deliver. These partnerships have a very positive impact on our national sport curriculum and Hungary is always happy to welcome the world in our magnificent capital City Budapest.”

As World Athletics continues to prepare for this exciting new championship event, consultation with the stakeholders – including the athletes and their representatives, the coaches, the shoe companies, the broadcast organizations, the Member Federations, and many others – will continue throughout the Summer before a full event launch this coming Autumn.
 

Snapshots

 

World Athletics Ultimate Championship:

  • Global championship event: Launching in 2026, the championship will take place every two years and serve as a grand conclusion to the track and field season;
  • Compact format: A three-day event, with each evening session packed with semi-finals and finals for track disciplines and straight finals for field disciplines;
  • Elite athlete participation: Featuring 8-16 of the world’s top-ranked athletes per discipline, with selections based primarily on the world rankings. Approaching 400 athletes from about 70 countries will compete, representing the pinnacle of global athletic talent; and
  • Prize money: A total prize pot of US$10 million, with winners receiving US$150,000, setting a new benchmark for financial rewards in athletics.

 
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