This feature, written by Stuart Weir, is about the EA awarding the 2026 European Athletics Outdoor Championships to Birmingham, England. Stuart Weir is our senior writer for Europe and has provided us with amazing coverage for nearly a decade. Stuart Weir provides the reader insights into the world of athletics.
The choice of Birmingham as the venue for the European Athletics Championships 2026 further confirms the city’s place at the heart of the sport in the UK. Indeed, with Crystal Palace in need of a major overhaul before it could again be used to host major events and with the London (2012 Olympic) stadium only available in July each year, the case for Birmingham to be seen as the center of British Athletics is getting stronger. It certainly helps that British Athletics has its offices on site.
Birmingham has a long tradition of hosting athletics – 2003 and 2018 World Indoor Athletics, regular Diamond Leagues and indoor Grand Prix (including the 2023 Indoor Series Final), and regular British Indoor and Outdoor Championships – culminating in the revamped Alexander stadium for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
One noticeable difference between the World Championships in Oregon, the European Championships in Munich, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year was the attendance. When Oregon struggled to fill a 12,000 seater and attendance at Munich changed daily, Birmingham, according to the program, sold out every session of the Commonwealth Games, including the morning sessions.
Britain simply hosts athletics well! Remember the full stadium for the 2017 London World Championships compared to Moscow 2013, Beijing 2015, and Doha 2019, with stadiums regularly barely half full?
After the Commonwealth Games, the temporary seats were removed, reducing the stadium to a permanent 18,000. It’ll be interesting to see if temp seats are added for 2026. Another great thing about the Alexander stadium is that it is a track and field stadium – not a multi-sport venue – and a track and field stadium which is home to the Birchfield Harriers, meaning that athletes, elite or club level, are using the facilities every week. Check out the Birchfield website The UK’s Premier Athletics Club – Birchfield Harriers https://birchfieldharriers.com
An important part of the story of Birmingham’s contribution to athletics is the attitude of the Birmingham City Council, whose elected leader, Ian Ward, said: “We are honored and privileged to be asked to be the first-ever UK hosts of the prestigious European Athletics Championships in 2026. Over many years we have demonstrated we are a city that can proudly host major events of this type and scale – and the people of Birmingham and, indeed, the entire nation have proven time and time again their huge appetite for sport, especially athletics.
“The Alexander Stadium is, beyond all doubt, the premier athletics facility in the country, and we cannot wait to welcome the elite of European athletics for this event, which will also bring a range of benefits for local communities and our economy beyond the program of track and field activities.”