Birmingham set to host 2026 European Athletics Championship

Birmingham is set to build on the legacy of the Commonwealth Games by being named as the host of the 2026 European Athletics Championships. The news could be confirmed as soon as Friday after the city’s only rival, Budapest, told European Athletics that it was withdrawing from the bidding process.

However the Guardian understands that at this stage it may be purely a standalone athletics competition – and not part of the wider multi-sport European Championships format that proved so successful in Glasgow and Berlin in 2018 and in Munich this summer.

The event in Munich saw GB stars, including the athlete Keely Hodgkinson, mountain biker Tom Pidcock and gymnast Joe Fraser, all take gold as part of a sporting festival in which 4,700 athletes competed for 177 European titles across nine sports, including athletics, cycling, gymnastics and triathlon.

However, as things stand, athletics will not be part of the core multi-sport European Championships event in 2026 unless Birmingham makes a successful bid for the entire event. So far that has not happened.

Sources say that European Athletics has asked for the door to remain open for athletics’ inclusion in 2026, and the hope is that there is still time for it to recommit to being the leading sport in a wider European Championship.

However European Championships Management (ECM), which manages and coordinates the multi-sport event, is already planning a separate competition away from Birmingham. It says it is working closely with between seven and 10 sports that share the vision to repeat the Munich concept in 2026 and bring their individual championships to “one of Europe’s leading cities”.

Supporters of the combined format point out that staging a major continental event at the same time has led to far greater media exposure on mainstream TV in Europe, including the BBC, as well as saving on costs.

Earlier this week, ECM released figures showing that Munich 2022 had achieved more than 750m viewer hours across the nine participating sports on free-to-air TV and digital platforms – the equivalent of every person in Europe watching at least one hour of the event.