The Hungarian capital of Budapest has officially opened its new National Athletics Centre as it prepares to host the World Athletics Championships later this summer.
Around 15,000 people attended the open day on Saturday, with more than 5,000 people registering to take part in running races that culminated on the track at the new purpose-built stadium.
The races incorporated the nearby sports and leisure park, while behind-the-scenes guided tours were provided for 2,000 people. Locals were also able to sample family-friendly athletics equipment in the park.
The World Championships will take place from August 19-27. The stadium will have an initial capacity of 40,000 for the event before being reduced to 15,000.
It was reported in November 2020 that the Hungarian government had allocated more than €550m towards the construction of the stadium and its surrounding infrastructure, which would make it more expensive than the much larger Puskás Aréna which opened in Budapest in 2019.
Ádám Schmidt, Hungary’s State Secretary for Sport and government commissioner for the World Championships, said: “Thanks to all our compatriots, the Hungarian Government, the designer, the contractor and everyone who contributed to the construction of this unique facility, a worthy home of centuries of Hungarian athletics, which will also be a leisure and sports centre after the World Championships, open to everyone, where amateur athletes and those who want to relax can feel at home, and where they will return to in their everyday lives after the World Championships.”
The development of the stadium is seen as important for Hungary’s long-term goal of hosting the Olympic Games. Budapest was involved in the bidding process for the 2024 Games, but is believed to be looking as far ahead as 2040 for its chance to host the multi-sport event.
Budapest was awarded hosting rights for this year’s World Athletics Championships back in December 2018.