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U.S. first: World track championships coming to Eugene in 2021

Christopher Bodeen Associated Press

BEIJING – After nearly four decades of bypassing the United States, track and field’s marquee event is finally headed to the country that has been the dominant force in the sport.

Eugene, a town steeped in track history and the home of the University of Oregon, was awarded the 2021 world athletics championships on Thursday in a surprise move that came without a bidding process.

The IAAF, the governing body of the sport, said the decision was driven by the desire to break into the key American market.

“We have to give it to Eugene, to a city where athletics is like a religion,” IAAF president Lamine Diack said.

Eugene has become a hotbed for track and field in recent decades, just as interest in the sport has waned. The city hosts an annual Diamond League meet, one of a series of top-tier IAAF track events, and staged the world junior championships last year. The 2016 world indoor championships will be held in nearby Portland.

The 2021 worlds will be at Hayward Field, the historic stadium used by the Oregon track team and the venue that made runner Steve Prefontaine an iconic figure. The stadium will be rebuilt to accommodate 32,000 spectators for the 2021 meet.

The world athletics championships have been held every two years since 1991.

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