Belfast has won the race to host the 12th IAU 24 Hour World Championships in 2017.
The ultra running championships, which are held every two years, will be staged in Victoria Park in east Belfast on Saturday 1 July and Sunday 2 July 2017.
The last race - held in Turin 2015 - attracted 300 of the world’s top competitors from 45 nations.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), which administers the long-distance running wing of the sport for the IAAF, made the announcement at its Executive Council meeting in Monaco, following what it described as “a good competition.”
“It is with great pleasure that I can confirm that Belfast has been allocated the organisation of the 2017 24 Hour World Championships,” said Dirk Strumane, IAU President.
“Belfast presented us with a convincing, well-structured and strongly supported bid and we are looking forward to a fruitful and constructive co-operation.”
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Arder Carson, welcomed the announcement as further evidence of the city’s ability to attract and stage world-class sporting events.
“Congratulations to the organising committee on bringing another major event here. This will be a further opportunity to showcase our city, let the competitors, spectators and visitors experience all that Belfast has to offer and demonstrate what good hosts we are,” he said.
The Belfast bid had struggled initially to gather the required underwriting to allow it to go forward but backing from Belfast City Council, long-time sponsors Energia and members of the local organising committee got it across the line.
“It was touch and go for a while but, as well as getting the guarantees in place, there was support from Athletics NI, acting on behalf of UK Athletics, Athletics Ireland, whose National Championships we have hosted since 2012, the Charles Hurst Group, Dame Mary Peters and from across the political spectrum,” explained Ed Smith, Bid Chairperson and Race Director.
“I’m delighted that all the committee’s hard work has resulted in this recognition, and am also delighted for the city, east Belfast and Victoria Park is now firmly established as an international venue, thanks to its key role in the larger Connswater Community Greenway project.
“We realise that there are no eye-catching household names in this branch of athletics - it’s all about endurance and survival but, hopefully with these championships, we can bring a spotlight to bear on the park and the whole city with the influx of athletes and visitors.
2We will certainly be doing our best to deliver a memorable event next July.”
Gas and electricity supplier Energia has supported Belfast’s regular 24 Hour race, Energia24, since 2010.
The council has also supported the race, through its Support for Sport programme.
It will now switch locations, from the Mary Peters Athletics Track, to the 1.7K circuit at Victoria Park for this year’s event, on 25 and 26 June, as a ‘dress rehearsal’ ahead of the 2017 championships.
“From small beginnings, the race has developed into a magnificent occasion, and I am thrilled that the dream of becoming a major international event has been realised, “said Tom Gillen, Group Managing Director.
“We will give every support we can in helping to deliver the 2016 race, and then the 24 Hour World Championships in 2017.”