World Athletics has unveiled a new biennial global championship meant to serve as a grand conclusion to the 2026 season, with a record $10 million prize pot on offer and Budapest as the inaugural host city.

The World Athletics Ultimate Championship will be held every two years, with gold medallists receiving $150,000 as part of what the sport's world governing body says is the richest prize pot ever in the sport.

The event is aligned with World Athletics' aim to stay relevant, and keep pace with the interests of a desired younger viewing audience.

"It absolutely sits at the epicentre of what we're trying to do," World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told reporters in a video call from Budapest.

"We're trying to remain interesting. We're trying to create new formats that keep our sport at the top of people's consciousness.

"Our sport is in very, very good shape. This is the time to keep the pedal flat to the floor."

The inaugural championships are scheduled for three evenings, Sept. 11-13, with each session taking place in under three hours, in a bid to offer a fast-paced event to captivate global television viewers.

The three-hour slots, however, mean not every discipline will be included, with longer events such as race walks likely to miss out.

"Going forward, there are innovations out there, there are disciplines we're looking at, the 4x100 metres mixed relay, but only if they road test well," said Coe, who announced on Friday that the mixed relay and a steeplechase mile will be tested.

"I can tell you is that all those marquee events that you would expect to be in there will be in there."


The meet will feature between eight and 16 of the world's top-ranked athletes per discipline, with selections based primarily on world rankings. Some 400 athletes from about 70 countries are expected to compete.

The prize pot is more good news for leading athletes.

World Athletics announced in April that it would offer prize money for Olympic gold medallists in Paris this year, breaking with a 128-year Games tradition. The move was met with sharp criticism from other international sports federations.

"Let me be absolutely blunt here," Coe said. "I am elected to do what I think is in the best interests of the sport. This is not done on a wing and a prayer. And I am elected to represent my sport in the Olympic movement, not the Olympic movement in my sport."

Coe said he was conscious that free to air is crucial, amid complaints that from 2025 the Diamond League in the U.S., currently covered by NBC, will only be available on pay channel FloTrack.

"It is really important that people get to see this," Coe said.

The traditional world athletics championships are also held every two years. Budapest hosted the 2023 event, with the next one in Tokyo in 2025.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing, editing by Ed Osmond)