Eugene Will Host 2024 US Olympic Track & Field Trials, AgainBy LetsRun.com
The next US Olympic Track and Field Trials will be held in ….. Eugene, yet again.
Yes that’s right. Hayward Field will host the 2024 US Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field from June 21-30, 2024, USATF announced in a statement on Thursday. The Olympic track & field program will begin four weeks later, on August 1 in Paris.
2024 will be the fifth straight Olympic Trials hosted by Eugene (2008, 2012, 2016, 2021, 2024) and Eugene’s fourth straight USATF Outdoor Championship. Since the new Hayward Field opened in 2020, no other stadium has hosted the US championships.
That means that in 2024 — just as in 2015, 2016, 2021, and 2022 — the three biggest meets in American track & field will be held at Hayward Field: the Prefontaine Classic, the NCAA championships, and the USATF championships/Olympic Trials. Here is what the schedule will look like for 2024:
May 25: Prefontaine Classic
June 5-8: NCAA championships
June 21-30: US Olympic Trials
Quick Take: Eugene does a fantastic job hosting big meets, but it’s time to give someone else a chance to host the Olympic Trials
Let’s make a few things clear. The new Hayward Field is the best track & field stadium in the country, and Eugene has a terrific local organizing committee in TrackTown USA that knows how to stage big meets. The 2024 Olympic Trials are going to be terrific — they always are.
When you’ve got a beautiful new stadium like Hayward Field, you don’t want it to go to waste. But from 2021-2024, almost every major track meet in the US will have been staged at Hayward Field. The three most important track meets in the US are the Prefontaine Classic (the US’s only Diamond League), the NCAA championships, and the USATF championships/Olympic Trials. During a four-year period, 11 of those 12 meets will have been hosted in Eugene. And that does not even include the biggest meet Eugene has ever hosted — the 2022 World Championships.
That’s a recipe for major Eugene fatigue.
The Prefontaine Classic obviously isn’t moving out of Eugene, and the NCAAs are locked into Eugene through 2027. But it’s a missed opportunity to hold USAs in Eugene every single year, particularly the Olympic Trials. There are a limited number of diehard track fans in the US, and any diehard who has wanted to visit the new Hayward Field has probably done it at this point. If a husband and wife are huge track fans and they already figured out a way to take their kids to Eugene for Worlds, are they really going to want to go back again to the same location for the Trials?
The Olympic Trials should be in Eugene at most once every eight years. The last two normal* Trials drew more than 20,000 fans per day (21,644 in 2012; 22,1222 in 2016) but it’s foolish to suggest that the Trials can only do those sort of numbers in Eugene.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was ticketing uncertainty about the 2021 Trials until the very last minute, which meant attendance numbers were a fraction of previous years
In the United States, when you throw the word Olympic in front of anything, people go crazy. And the last few US championships has shown that the built-in track fanbase in Eugene — the diehards who will go to every meet — has dwindled significantly.
We’re confident that if you staged the Olympic Trials in Austin, Des Moines, Omaha, Sacramento, or Mt. SAC, you’d draw big crowds. The Olympic Trials will do well anywhere they are held.
The question then, is why isn’t this happening?
“We all know that getting [to Eugene], it’s trying,” said Will Leer, chair of the USATF Athlete Advisory Committee, when LetsRun asked him about this at USAs in July. “Small airport, it’s expensive, hotels are minimal. But the process by which championships are awarded is through a bid. That much is well-known throughout all of USATF. And time and time again, TrackTown comes to the table with the best bid.”
Eugene certainly has a lot to offer, but we also don’t how much competition there is to host these events. It’s not as simple as USATF just awarding the Trials to a different city. A potential Trials host needs a world-class track facility and a local organizing committee interested in bidding for the Trials, which requires dollars.
Sarah Lorge Butler reports that Eugene paid at least $3 million to host the 2020 Trials, writing, “TrackTown paid a nonrefundable rights fee of $500,000 and the total prize purse of $1.4 million. They also had obligations to provide $1.1 million for athlete support during the meet, to be used at USATF’s sole discretion.”
It’s an expensive undertaking for any local organizing committee. We know Eugene has the dollars. It’s unclear whether anyone else does (If you know of any other city that bid for the Trials, please email us at email@example.com)
If it’s simply a matter of USATF needing to find $3 million to put on the Trials, we know where they could find it. USATF head Max Siegel was paid a ridiculous $3.8 million in compensation in 2021; reduce that to a more reasonable $800k and you could hold the Trials wherever you wanted without any financial impact on USATF.