Virgin Media will broadcast live coverage of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest this August, returning the event to Irish terrestrial television for the first time in decades.
The nine-day championships, set for August 19th-27th at the new purpose-built National Athletics Centre in Budapest, is the largest sporting event in the world this year, featuring around 2,000 athletes from over 200 nations.
While RTÉ has focused on the European Athletics Championships in recent years, it hasn’t bought the rights to the World Championships since 1990s, when Sonia O’Sullivan was competing at her peak.
The Virgin deal was brokered by ESPN, who jointly hold World Athletics media rights in Europe and Africa alongside Eurovision Sport.
Ireland will likely have far less qualifiers compared to last summer’s European Championships, but there will be in strong interest nonetheless, Rhasidat Adeleke already safely qualified after her series of Irish record-breaking runs this season, lowering the 400-metre mark to 49.52 at the end of last month, the third fastest time in the world this year.
The 20-year-old Dublin sprinter will contest that event again this weekend at the NCAA Championships, staged on her home track at the University of Texas in Austin.
Ciara Mageean is also already qualified for Budapest in the 800m and 1,500m, as is Andrew Coscoran (1,500m) and Louise Shanahan (800m), with Mark English (800m) and Thomas Barr (400m hurdles) on course to qualify on ranking, if they don’t hit the automatic standards.
Brendan Boyce has already been selected to compete in the 35km Race Walk, having achieved a B standard on two occasions during the qualification period. Fionnuala McCormack and Kevin Seaward were in line for selection for the marathon, but both are focusing on the Paris Olympics summer, which means Ireland won’t have any marathon representatives in Budapest.
“We are delighted to be broadcasting the World Athletics Championships this summer live and free to air,” said Mick McCaffrey, head of News and Sport at Virgin Media TV.
“Irish athletics is really growing in popularity and with the likes of Rhasidat Adeleke regularly breaking records hopefully the next generation of athletes will be inspired to follow in her footsteps after watching these championships.”
World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon added: “These championships promise to be a spectacle like no other as the world’s greatest athletes from more than 200 countries compete to become World champions. We hope athletics fans and sports fans across Ireland will tune in and ‘Witness the wonder’ as the superheroes of our sport descend on Budapest to inspire fans and future generations.”