World Athletics Launches Ultimate Championship with Record $10 Million Prize Pot

World Athletics, Ultimate Championship, $10 million prize, Budapest 2026, track and field, Olympic champions, Diamond League winners, athletics event, sports competition, Lord Coe, Michael Johnson

Discover the new Ultimate Championship by World Athletics, launching in September 2026 with a record $10 million prize pot. This biennial event will feature top athletes from around the globe, competing to be the best of the best. Learn more about the competition format, participant selection, and enhanced promotional opportunities for athletes.

World Athletics Launches Ultimate Championship
World Athletics Launches Ultimate Championship

World Athletics is set to make history with the launch of its new ‘Ultimate Championship,’ boasting an unprecedented prize pot of $10 million (£7.8 million). This biennial event, starting in September 2026, aims to revolutionize the sport by attracting massive television audiences and engaging younger fans worldwide.

Event Overview

The inaugural Ultimate Championship will be hosted in Budapest from September 11-13, 2026, at the National Athletics Centre. The competition will feature world, Olympic, and Diamond League champions alongside the year’s top-performing athletes, vying for the title of the “best of the best.” The event will alternate with the World Championships, ensuring that a major athletics showcase occurs every calendar year.

Participant Selection and Prize Distribution

Nearly 400 athletes from about 70 countries are expected to compete, with 8-16 of the world’s best athletes per discipline being selected primarily based on world rankings. Winners in each discipline will receive a prize of $150,000 (£118,000), and all participants will be financially rewarded for their involvement. This significant financial incentive underscores World Athletics’ commitment to supporting athletes and enhancing the sport’s appeal.

Lord Coe’s Vision

World Athletics President Lord Coe emphasized the high stakes and competitive nature of the event. “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,” he stated. Coe highlighted that featuring the sport’s biggest stars would make the Ultimate Championship a must-watch global sports event. This ensures that track and field will have a major global championship annually, maximizing audience reach and engagement.

Enhanced Promotional Opportunities

Beyond the substantial prize money, World Athletics has promised athletes greater promotional rights, allowing them to commercially activate and enhance their personal profiles. This move is expected to provide athletes with more significant opportunities to build their brands and secure endorsements, further professionalizing the sport.

Stakeholder Consultation and Future Plans

World Athletics will consult with various stakeholders, including athletes, broadcasters, shoe companies, and member federations, over the summer. A full launch is anticipated in the autumn. This inclusive approach aims to refine the championship’s format and ensure it meets the needs and expectations of all parties involved.

Historical Context and Precedents

This announcement follows World Athletics’ groundbreaking decision in April to become the first international federation to award prize money at the Olympics. Gold medalists at the Paris 2024 Summer Games will each receive $50,000 (£39,000). This prize money program is set to expand for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, where silver and bronze medalists will also receive financial rewards, although the specific amounts are yet to be determined.

Competitive Landscape

The launch of the Ultimate Championship comes at a time of significant change and competition within the athletics world. Just months prior, four-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson announced a breakaway venture aimed at revolutionizing the sport. Johnson, a long-standing critic of the current governing bodies, seeks to introduce “fan-focused” events designed to unlock commercial value for top track and field athletes. Johnson’s initiative has already secured over $30 million (£24 million) in funding from investors, with a planned inaugural season in 2025.


The Ultimate Championship represents a bold new chapter for World Athletics, combining substantial financial incentives with a streamlined, high-stakes competition format. By featuring the sport’s top athletes and providing greater promotional opportunities, World Athletics aims to elevate track and field to new heights. The event’s success will depend on its ability to attract and engage audiences globally, but with a record prize pot and a star-studded lineup, the Ultimate Championship is poised to become a landmark event in the world of athletics.

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