Budapest To Host 2026 World Athletics Ultimate Championship Featuring $10M Prize Purse

By Chris Chavez

June 3, 2024

After months of teasing a new global championship in the years between World Championships, World Athletics officially announced details of the World Athletics Ultimate Championship.

Here’s what you need to know:

– The inaugural World Athletics Ultimate Championship will debut from September 11th to 13th, 2026 in Budapest. The Hungarian capital hosted the 2023 World Championships. The Ultimate Championships will be held every two years at various host cities.

– The Ultimate Championship aims to bring the best of the best together for a compact championship meet over three evening competition sessions. Athletes in the sprints, middle and long-distance races, relays, jumps, and throws will participate.

– The event features a $10,000,000 prize pool with gold medalists set to take home $150,000. For reference, gold medalists at the 2023 World Athletics Championships earned $70,000. Silver medalists took home $35,000. Bronze medalists received $22,000. The total prize purse was $8,500,000. Athletes who broke a world record during the championships earned a $100,000 bonus.

– Since the International Olympic Committee does not award prize money at the Olympics, World Athletics allocated $2,400,000 to pay gold medalists $50,000 each across 48 track and field events at the Paris Olympics.

– World Athletics says each event will have eight to 16 of the world’s top-ranked athletes per discipline with many of them being selected based off their World Ranking. Nearly 400 athletes from about 70 counties are estimated for the 2026 event.

What World Athletics President Seb Coe Had To Say

“With only the best of the best on show and cutting straight to semi-finals and finals, we will create an immediate pressure to perform for 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 track and field events. Featuring athletics’ biggest stars, it will be a must-watch global sports event and means track and field will host a major global championship in every single year, ensuring for the first time that athletics will enjoy a moment of maximum audience reach on an annual basis.”

World World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon Had To Say

“By embracing innovation and breaking away from traditional models, we are looking to reach a broader audience, particularly younger fans, and elevate the entire sport. There will be a strong focus on 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 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.”

The Calendar Ahead

Track and field’s global championships over the next five years are set…

2024 – Olympics in Paris 🇫🇷

2025 – World Championships in Tokyo 🇯🇵

2026 – World Ultimate Championships in Budapest 🇭🇺

2027 – World Championships in Beijing 🇨🇳

2028 – Olympics in Los Angeles 🇺🇸

World Athletics also has announced the 2025 World Road Running Championships in San Diego, 2026 World Road Running Championships in Copenhagen, 2026 World Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, 2026 World Indoor Championships in Toruń. For U20 athletes, 2026’s World U20 Championships will be in Eugene, Ore.

More Lucrative Opportunities Ahead For Track Athletes

In addition to greater prize money at championships, track athletes can also look forward to other innovative events with prize money. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson's track league has secured more than $30 million and is set to debut in 2025. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is hosting a women's-only track meet in September that will offer $60,000 to first place, $25,000 for second place and $10,000 to third place in each respective event. More details on both events are expected to be announced this month.

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.