PORTLAND, Ore. — The World Athletics Championships is one of the most prestigious track-and-field competitions in the world, perhaps second only to the Olympics, and it's about to get running in Track Town USA — Eugene, Ore.
More than 1,900 athletes from nearly 200 countries will compete in the competition at University of Oregon's newly renovated Hayward Field from July 15-24.
This will be the United States' first time hosting the competition in the nearly 40 years since its inception. The championships have previously been held in major cities like London, Paris, Tokyo and Beijing.
NBC Sports will broadcast about 43 hours of this year's event, officially branded "Oregon22." Events will also be streamed online on NBC Sports, on the NBC Sports app and on Peacock. USA Network and CNBC will also air some events.
Who is competing?
Many of the world's elite track-and-field athletes will be competing in Oregon22, and some of them are names you might recognize.
Oregon native and world record holder Ryan Crouser will take part in men's shot put. He won gold in the Tokyo Olympics last year with a throw of 76 feet, 5 1/4 inches. His record-breaking throw of 76 feet, 8 1/4 inches was at the U.S. Olympic trials at Hayward Field on June 18, 2021.
Fifteen University of Oregon alumni will also compete, representing seven different countries. Nine of them will be representing the U.S.:
- Devon Allen — 110m hurdles
- Johnny Gregorek — 1500 meters
- Alaysha Johnson — 100m hurdles
- Kyree King — 4x100m relay
- Sam Prakel — 1500m
- Jenna Prandini — 200m
- Raevyn Rogers — 800m
- Galen Rupp — marathon
- Cooper Teare — 1500 meters
Jessica Hull will represent Australia in the 1500 and 5,000-meter races. Earlier this month, she broke the women's Australian record in the mile at a one-event track meet at Jesuit High School in Portland.
Other U of O alumni include Canada's Jillian Weir (hammer), Dominica's Tristan James (long jump), France's Shana Grebo (4x400m relay), Italy's Emmanuel Ihemeje (triple jump) and Jamaica's Kemba Nelson (100m and 4x100m relay).
Despite the nickname "Track Town USA," the fact that a mid-size college town in Oregon is hosting such a massive international event may come as a surprise to some. After all, Eugene's population of about 170,000 is roughly 80 times smaller than Tokyo and well over 100 times smaller than Beijing.
So how did it happen? It pretty much came down to great facilities, name recognition — and a lot of lobbying.
Hayward Field is widely considered to be the best track and field stadium in the U.S., and it just underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed in 2020. The World Athletics Championships website calls it "the ultimate track and field experience."
The effort to bring the championships to Oregon started years ago, under then-Gov. John Kitzhaber.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported it began when legendary U of O track coach Vin Lananna attended the championships in Daegu, South Korea, and thought Eugene would make a fine host. After two years of lobbying, she was able to make it happen.
What to expect for travel
The 10-day event is expected to bring tens of thousands of people to Oregon, which means a lot of hotels will be packed — and not just in Eugene. A lot of people are expected to book hotels one or two hours away from the stadium, from Portland to Roseburg and even Bend.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said it's preparing for an influx of drivers during the event. Despite summer also being peak road work season, the agency is staying flexible.
"There are some things that we could pause for bit, and that means we’re just going to take a break, get those construction cones off the road and put them back when everything’s done and folks have gone home," said Angela Beers-Seydel with ODOT.
For example, OR-126 is the major connector from the Oregon Coast to Eugene; ODOT will pause paving scheduled along that road while the World Athletics Championships are in town.
For other projects that can't be put on pause, ODOT said transportation officials will "modify their traffic control plans as needed if they’re seeing a lot of folks come to visit and they need to get them through faster."
Bikeshare options in Eugene have been expanded significantly. However, there is a shortage of rideshare services. Travel Lane County said that pre-pandemic, there were about 2,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in the Eugene area. The number is now fewer than 400.
An economic boost
Oregon22 will not only bring in hundreds of the best athletes in the world; it will also draw of dollars from athletes, coaches and fans alike, and the economic boost is expected to be significant.
Travel Oregon estimates direct spending during the competition could range from $50 million to $200 million.
"This is the most prestigious track and field event that happens in the world," said Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson. "It's one of the largest sporting events that happens on a global stage. It's perhaps only surpassed by the Olympics and World Cup Soccer."
Tight security, but not overbearing
Security at Hayward Field during the event is expected to be tight but not overbearing, creating a safe and enjoyable experience for those who attend.
Andre Le Duc, leader of the U of O's safety and risk services, is serving as chair of the Oregon22 public safety committee. He said the university is working with organizers to coordinate security on campus.
He said people will be scanned to enter the venue, similar to airports, and there are a number of security policies listed on the "Know Before You Go" section on the event's website, such as a clear bag policy and no re-entry policy. It's definitely work taking a look if you plan to attend.
Oregon22 has turned into an opportunity for several students at the University of Oregon.
Among the local, national and international reporters at Hayward Field, there will be eight student journalists from the U of O's School of Journalism and Communications. They will be covering the competition as part of a paid internship between the event and the school.
Meanwhile, a motion graphics class at the U of O had a friendly competition to create the best intro video for Oregon22. Freshman Quinn Connell's video was selected as the winner, and it'll be featured on the jumbotron at the stadium on Friday to kick off the games.