Elite track athletes coming for Atlanta City Games at Centennial Olympic Park

Credit: Paul Ward/Courtesy of Atlanta Track Club

Credit: Paul Ward/Courtesy of Atlanta Track Club

Atlanta continues to attract illustrious sporting events. The latest: Centennial Olympic Park will host the inaugural Adidas Atlanta City Games on May 6. It will be an all-star event in the track and field world.

The Atlanta Track Club joined Global Athletics & Marketing in announcing the Games, which are expected to occur every spring. The first edition will bring a conglomerate of international track and field athletes that hasn’t been seen in this market since the 1996 Olympics.

Boston had previously hosted the extravaganza since 2016 under the name Boston Boost Games.

“The City Games concept was born in Europe more than a decade ago,” Rich Kenah, Atlanta Track Club CEO, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “The idea was, hey, the Olympics come around every four years. It’s in this big, huge stadium. There are very, very few people who get access to being that close to athletes that fast. So bring the athletes to the downtown of the city. So that’s been really successful in some cities in Europe, and the first city in (the) United States to do it was Boston, and they’ve done it successfully.

“And in partnership with Adidas, a great partner for the track club, and Global Athletics, it was operating in Boston, we thought now was the time to move to Atlanta. Candidly, Boston in May is still a little bit breezy, a little bit cool. We think that the weather here in Atlanta will serve it well. And this will become a real destination for Olympic champions from around the world.”

Among the notable participants: Noah Lyles, the two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medalist. In September, Lyles, 25, became the American record-holder in the 200 meters. He broke Michael Johnson’s 26-year-old record set during his gold medal run at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Johnson set that mark 351 days before Lyles’ birth.

Lyles was in Atlanta for the announcement, talking with reporters and visiting athletes at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate during the afternoon.

“One of track and field’s hardest jobs in America is to make sure that it gets to cities that attract a lot of people, that have a lot of events, where it’s easy to get to,” Lyles told the AJC. “We have World Championships in Oregon and Eugene, but gosh darn, it’s very hard to get there. And there aren’t a lot of hotels. So it’s not the best place to show off the world’s greatest talent.

“But I think Atlanta has what Oregon is lacking. It has that big population and has the hotels. It has the housing space. It has great weather for it. … Having this meet down in the South, during the warmer months of the year, it’s very important.”

Credit: Paul Ward/Courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club

Credit: Paul Ward/Courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club

The Atlanta City Games will include 100m, 150m, 100m hurdles and 110m hurdles races on “a specially engineered 150-meter elevated track straightaway” inside the park, according to the Atlanta Track Club. There will also be a pole vault competition, 600m road race and the Running City Mile.

The Running City Mile is open to the public and will be part of the experience annually. It will be run in waves sorted to age groups, finishing with a wave for invited professional athletes.

Importantly, the scenic Atlanta skyline will serve as the backdrop. The event will be engulfed in the city’s sights and sounds.

“I’ve been here in Atlanta for nine years, and I just found a warm and welcoming place,” Kenah said. “As it relates to running, we already have the world’s largest 10K here in the (AJC) Peachtree (Road Race). We have the second-largest running organization in the country in the Atlanta Track Club. It just makes perfect sense that we continue to attract the best running events, track and field events, and the best running and track and field athletes from around the world.

“The downtown area just lends itself to what we’re trying to do here. We can bring the City Games to a downtown, which is what they were supposed to be about, without shutting down roads. We have this great open green space here in Centennial Olympic Park. You can tell a great story with the skyline of Atlanta right around us. There’s public transportation, there’s restaurants, and there is that celebration of the Olympic movement that happens here.”

The Atlanta City Games’ complete schedule will be announced at a later date.