National Athletics Centre

The brand new National Athletics Centre (NAC) will be the showpiece stadium for the Budapest 2023 World Athletics Championships.

Around 2,000 athletes from 200 countries will arrive to compete at the stunning new venue from August 19 to August 27.

The arena will have an initial capacity of 35,000 for the Championships, before being reduced to 15,000 through the removal of mobile stands on the second level.

The NAC is designed specifically for international athletics competitions, and so all events on the track and infield will be visible from every vantage point.

It is one of the jewels of a sporting crown put together within the last decade under the direction of Balázs Fürjes, the co-chair of the governing body of the World Championships.

As well as the National Athletics Centre, Fürjes has also presided over the creation of the MVM Dome, one of Europe's largest multi-purpose indoor arenas with a capacity of 20,000.

He has also overseen the Ferencvaros Arena, the Papp Laszlo Budapest Arena, the Debrecen Velodrome, the 65,000-capacity Puskas Stadium for the national football team and the Duna Arena, which hosted the 2017 and 2022 World Aquatics Championships and is due to hold the 2027 event.

The brand new National Athletics Centre, the central venue for the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 ©Getty Images
The brand new National Athletics Centre, the central venue for the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 ©Getty Images

Fürjes now believes Budapest is "even more" capable of hosting a future Olympics and Paralympics than it was when it made an unsuccessful bid for the 2024 Games.

While London is still struggling to untangle the respective claims of athletics and football at its main 2012 Olympic Stadium, Budapest has got around such problems by building separate facilities in the form of the NAC and the Puskas Arena.

"It's always a luxury if you do things after others because you can learn from their experiences," Fürjes told insidethegames.

"We carefully studied the experiences of countries in various continents, and for a football stadium one of the basic questions is 'if you make it suitable for both athletics and football', and the conclusion is that there are just too many compromises and it will not be ideal for either of them.

"That's why there are separate stadiums. The National Athletics Centre will be 35,000 capacity for the World Championships through temporary seating.

"But after the Championships the temporary seats will be removed and there will be a 15,000 capacity stadium that will be a very good idea for national, regional and European competitions as well as Diamond League meetings."

In 2020 it was reported that the Government provided more than HUF 200 billion for the construction of the NAC and a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. The money also covers other related facilities and infrastructure, including the landscaping of the area.

The new bridge - the Robinson Bridge - is a spectacular 168.9 metre link that will take athletes from the warm-up area to the stadium.

It curves around a single 70m high pylon, secured by 53 steel cables.

There is also a new cycle path that runs from Csepel to the city centre.

After the World Championships are over, the NAC will be transformed. Once the stands on the upper tier have been dismantled, the arena will be left with a circular plateau which will serve as a public leisure area.

Following Budapest 2023, the upper tier of the National Athletics Centre will be dismantled to become a circular plateau which will serve as a public leisure area ©Getty Images
Following Budapest 2023, the upper tier of the National Athletics Centre will be dismantled to become a circular plateau which will serve as a public leisure area ©Getty Images

The NAC will become an international facility and training centre for the central European region, and the main competition venue and training hub for Hungarian athletics.

The facility will give a major boost not only to competitive sports, but also to recreational and youth sports. It will become a leisure and sports centre open all year round, with a panoramic running track, an outdoor gym and catering areas in the upper part.

Budapest residents and students will also find training tracks, street workouts and many other opportunities for sports and recreation.

The stadium will also be directly accessible by public transport including trams, buses, local railway and boats on the River Danube. The transport links means the city centre can be reached in 15 to 20 minutes.

VIP transportation during the Championships will make use of electric cars, but all will be encouraged to consider walking to the stadium along the riverbank without any transportation required.

The VIPs will benefit from an unusual architectural feature as, under the grandstand at the finish line, there will be a walkway where they will be able to go behind the scenes.

The NAC is built on the eastern bank of the Danube, on the south side of Budapest.

It is not just a sports facility but an urban development project.

As a brownfield project, the land on which the NAC is built and its surroundings, previously an inaccessible contaminated area, has been completely regenerated.

So while elite sports will benefit from the creation of Budapest's new green area, the Danube bank will finally be accessible to all.

A park with wooded greenery will be waiting for runners, families and sports enthusiasts.

Ecological walks will ensure the protection of flora and fauna such as beavers, bats, protected bird species and perennial trees.

Native tree species adapted to the area have been planted in the surroundings.

A total of 11 kilometres of pipeline was laid for the construction of the stadium, and nearly 100,000 cubic metres of soil was excavated, creating a mound of earth 20m high.

Budapest, like all host cities of future World Athletics Series events, will also join World Athletics' Air Quality project.

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Marathon and Race Walking routes

Marathon runners and race walkers at the Budapest 2023 World Athletics Championships are set to compete in the heart of the Hungarian capital.

Marathoners will complete the classic 26.2 miles distance on a 10 kilometre course which runs through the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site sections of Budapest.

The start-finish area for the marathons and the 20km and 35km race walk events will be in Heroes' Square. The six road races will be free for everyone to watch.

Budapest has become a trusted host for mass running events. The Budapest Marathon, the Budapest Half Marathon and the Vivicittá City Run attract nearly 100,000 people every year.

On the closing weekend of the World Championships, the world's best marathon athletes will take to the streets of Budapest, with the women racing on August 26 and the men on the following day.

"We have found a really good route for marathoners," said Éva Petrik, the competition director of the 2023 World Championships in Budapest and a former Hungarian champion marathoner.

"From the beginning we considered about 30 possible options. There were and are many possibilities in this city as to how to draw a route for a marathon. 

"In the end, we chose this 10km course, which will be completed by the world's best in four laps in August."

After the start at Heroes' Square, athletes will enter a fast, straight section along Andrássy Avenue. The only minor climb will be up the recently renovated Chain Bridge, first opened in 1849, as the field leaves Pest and crosses the River Danube to Buda.

Chain Bridge in Budapest features in both the marathon and race walking routes @Getty Images
Chain Bridge in Budapest features in both the marathon and race walking routes @Getty Images

From here, the course sends the athletes under Buda Castle and through the tunnel, one of the curiosities of the route. 

The athletes will then return from Buda to Pest, bypassing the castle, running across the Chain Bridge again, and then heading back to Andrássy Avenue and Heroes' Square.

"It's a well-run course, where the best in the world will be able to deliver their top performance," Petrik added.

"Its world record potential is slim, not because it's not a fast course but because the Berlin course, where the recent world records were set, is so good. It was also an important aspect to show as many beautiful parts of Budapest as possible."

The route has a buffer section on the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky road behind the Basilica. This is the only 180-degree turn on the course, but as it is a seven-lane road, runners will be able to handle it with minimal speed loss.

Both marathons will start at 7am. The most important aspect in setting the start time of a marathon is what conditions can be expected in the later stages of the race.

Athletes experience the greatest stress after 30 to 35 kilometres, so during this period the temperature, wind and other weather conditions should be taken into account.

In terms of road closures, the early start is also an advantage. As the marathons will take place over the weekend, the earlier the race starts, the fewer people are disrupted in the city. In addition, as the world's best will be competing, there will be no need for the six to seven hour closures experienced in traditional mass races.

Since the course bisects the city centre, it is recommended to use the subway. Both the underground and metro two and three will operate without disruption during the race hours.

The tram service on the Grand Boulevard will not stop either, but will be split into two sections at Oktogon. The public will be able to continue their journey by crossing the pedestrian bridge over the track. There will also be several designated pedestrian crossings from one side to the other at other locations.

The marathon route for the World Championships, taking in some of the most beautiful parts of Budapest @Budapest 2023
The marathon route for the World Championships, taking in some of the most beautiful parts of Budapest @Budapest 2023

There will also be activities at the larger fan areas while fans wait for the runners, with large screens enabling them to follow the races. In Heroes' Square the competition can be watched from the stands.

The race walking finals will follow a formula that has worked well in the last few world races. 

The men's and women's 20km races will be on a 1km circuit and the men's and women's 35km races will be on a 2km circuit. The start and finish will again be in Heroes' Square, and the course on Andrássy Avenue.

The men's 20km walk, starting at 8.50am on August 19, will be the first event of the World Athletics Championships.

The women's 20km walk will start one day later, at 7.15am on August 20. 

The women and men will tackle the 35km event at the same time on August 24 at 7am.