Even to television spectators, it was obvious that attendance numbers at the 2023 World Athletics Championships were significantly higher than in Eugene in 2022. But now, a recent report in the Budapest Business Journal reveals the numbers for this year’s event were nearly three times last year’s attendance figures.
Budapest 2023 organizers reported that a staggering 404,088 tickets out of an available 420,000 were snapped up and used by spectators, highlighting track and field’s popularity in Europe. This is two and a half times the total attendance of 146,033 fans from Eugene.
This is surprising, considering this year’s world champs took place over nine days, whereas last year’s schedule was 10 days. A total of 267,331 tickets were sold for the evening sessions and 136,757 tickets for the morning sessions.
What’s even more impressive is the diversity of the Budapest audience. Track fans from 120 different countries flocked to the Hungarian capital, creating an atmosphere of global celebration, competition and unity. Approximately 40 per cent of all attendees came from abroad, while 60 per cent were Hungarian citizens.
The Hungarians dominated the attendance figures, showcasing their support for the ongoing events and their athletes. Following closely were visitors from the U.K., Germany and the U.S.A., who also made up a significant percentage of the ticket numbers. Obviously, Hungary was more of a central location for incoming fans, and this time around, it did not require a three-hour drive from the nearest international airport to reach the stadium (i.e., Portland to Eugene).
Budapest’s larger size and population provided better accommodation for attendees, athletes and media, eliminating the need for fans to book hotels hours away from the event, plus the headache of paying thousands of dollars for accommodation.
In an interview with the reigning world and Olympic pole vault champion, Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis, he revealed that Budapest 2023 was one of the best crowds he’s ever seen. “Eugene was an amazing championship in its way, but athletes knew the vibe would be different in a bigger metropolitan area,” said Duplantis. “It was naturally easier for energy to carry over around the city and into the stadium—it felt electric when I was competing.”
Duplantis said he immediately noticed the increased popularity of the event when he arrived in Budapest. “You could tell that the fans showed up in numbers,” said Duplantis. “It’s important for the growth of our sport—you need eyeballs and people there.”
The surge in attendance at the 2023 championships seems to be a testament to the enduring appeal of athletics on the global stage and specifically in Europe, which currently hosts 10 of the 14 stops on the Wanda Diamond League.
As the next World Athletics Championship is set to unfold in the world’s largest city, Tokyo, in two years, the importance of nurturing and expanding the sport of track and field is evident. The opportunity to develop the sport on a grander scale and reach a global audience is now.