This weekend and next week will mark a slice of sports history in the United States, one that might be hard to fathom.
Track and Field is not only a signature event every time the Summer Olympics are held, but it has long been dominated by American stars.
U.S. athletes such as Jessie Owens, Bob Beamon, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner, Gail Devers, Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix all became icons and captivated Americans in living rooms during Olympic broadcasts.
It’s a sport that has heavy participation from high school and junior athletes around the country as well.
Given that, here’s a trivia question: How many times has the U.S. played host to the World Athletics Championships, a biannual event that’s been held since 1983?
The improbable answer to that question at the moment is zero, but that is about to change.
For the first time ever, the World Athletics Championships will be held on American soil when it takes place from Friday through July 24 in Eugene, Oregon.
So, why has it taken this long?
In a nutshell, while track and field captures the attention of American audiences during the Summer Olympics, it doesn’t at any other time.
American cities haven’t been clamoring to host and TV networks haven’t been begging for World Athletics, the international governing body of track and field, to stage the event in the U.S.
Track and field simply is a more popular sport in other parts of the world when the Olympics aren’t taking place.
Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, hopes bringing the event to the U.S. for the first time will raise the profile of the sport beyond just Olympic entertainment.
“This is a very important market place for us, it’s the largest sports market in the world and we need to be there in higher profile,” Coe said to Yahoo Sports. “We don’t want to come out of the world championships in Oregon without a very defined footprint for our sport in that country.”
The U.S. has won 170 medals in the history of the world championships, by far the most of any country.
The event will be held at the refurbished mecca of track and field in the U.S., Hayward Stadium at the University of Oregon, which has a capacity of more than 12,000.
It will be a historic event since it will be the first time it’s held in the U.S., but organizers hope there will be enough interest and TV viewers to ensure it’s not the last time America plays host.