World Athletics "This Is Show Time!" Says Coe On The Ultimate Champs

World Athletics “This is show time!” says Coe on the Ultimate Champs

 

Seb Coe tells AW about a new event that is poised to make a big impact at the end of the 2026 season

The World Athletics Ultimate Championship has been around a year in the making and some of the details are yet to be finalised. It is due to unfold in Budapest in mid-September 2026 where it will form the climax to the track and field season. It will be fast-paced, innovative and both athlete and fan-friendly. “This is show time!” says World Athletics president Seb Coe.

The World Athletics

This is three nights. Three hours. Four hundred of the top athletes. Sixteen in the track events. Eight in the field. Straight final in the field. Semi and final in track. It will not have every discipline but all the marquee events will be there.”

WORLD ATHLETICS “THIS IS SHOW TIME!” SAYS COE ON THE ULTIMATE CHAMPS

The concept for the event is fill the void during a year when there is not a global championships and to give athletes and fans a big end-of-season meeting to look forward to. It will be staged over three days with a $10 million prize pot, which means winners will earn $150,000 each.

“We want it to be fast, free flowing and well organised,” says Coe. “The prize money pot is significantly higher than we’ve had in the sport before. Every athlete who wins will walk away with $150,000 but there will be money going through the ranks so everybody will leave the championships with something. We want it to be a new model and it will be something that gives athletes more skin in the game. We can also be more in control of the product.”

Seb Coe at the World Athletics Ultimate Championships launch in Budapest

Driven by data, World Athletics says athletes will wear national vests because this is proven to interest spectators. The event is likely to include some innovations, too, with the global governing body’s innovation team “working foot to the pedal” right now.

But Coe adds: “We think it will be a compelling and attractive format and we have innovative thoughts that are being road tested at the moment. They might make it into the championships but you have my commitment that they won’t make it in if they don’t pass the road test. People will be watching track and field athletics and not something that is all bells and whistles with no substance.”

WORLD ATHLETICS “THIS IS SHOW TIME!” SAYS COE ON THE ULTIMATE CHAMPS

Speaking from Budapest, Coe is clearly enthused by the concept and says it is only the second time in his spell as World Athletics president where he has had a “clean sheet of paper” to create something. The first occasion was when he started his role and re-wrote the governing body’s constitution and brought in the Athletics Integrity Unit.

“The last new format that we introduced was in 2014 with the World Relays and I often laugh that the first time it appeared on my agenda in my first (IAAF) council meeting was in 2003, so it took more than a decade to happen,” says Coe.

Speaking to AW alongside Coe in Budapest, World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon said: “The vision for this event is that it is the most important event of 2026. Of course athletes will do area championships and Diamond League and everything but this will be the big championship focus of 2026.

“Our ambition is that when athletes look back on their career they will say that they won the World Championships and Olympic Games but also the World Athletics Ultimate Championships too.”

“THIS IS SHOW TIME!” SAYS COE ON THE WORLD ATHLETICS ULTIMATE CHAMPS

World Athletics Ultimate Championships launch in Budapest

Ridgeon adds: “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.”

On the development of this new event, Coe added: “The best part of a year gone in behind this. We’ve spoken to the athletes, the athlete representatives, the shoe companies and of course broadcasters.”

He continues: “We are ostensibly delivering this to broaden the appeal of the sport and get more young people in. We want to get what we call the ‘big eventers’ in who watch the Super Bowls and the cup finals and the Champions’ League and Wimbledon and things like that. But at the same time, we want to bring in a young audience as well.”

Why Budapest? The fact they staged a superb World Championships in 2023 helped them earn the right to stage this event. “They understand the sport and know how to promote it,” says Coe. “The organising committee are tried and trusted. They are a city that wants us here and they are a safe pair of hands.”

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