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Olympic marathon trials are coming to Atlanta

Atlanta has won a bid against three other cities to host the U.S. Olympic team’s marathon trials for both men and women in 2020. 

USA Track and Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Monday that the trials, which will determine the three men and three women to represent the U.S. in the marathon at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, will be held Feb. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. 

The Atlanta Track Club will serve as the local organizing committee for the trials. 

USA Track & Field said there were three other “interested bidders:” Chattanooga, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; and Orlando, Fla. 

Atlanta Track Club executive director Rich Kenah said he felt there were two key reasons Atlanta landed the event. 

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“First, Atlanta is a great destination for an event like this because of its airport and because of the walkability of our downtown start and finish location,” Kenah said in an interview. “And second, I would point to the history and the respect that the Atlanta Track Club has within the running community and the running space.” 

The Atlanta bid referenced the city’s hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, carrying a theme of “Olympic Legacy; Olympic Future.” 

Max Siegel, CEO of USA Track & Field, said in a statement: “Atlanta’s legacy in the sport, their creative commitment to athlete support and the experience of their event management team were compelling.” 

The looped course hasn’t been finalized, but plans call for it to start and finish at Centennial Olympic Park, organizers said. 

“We’re trying to find that balance between being spectator-friendly, being athlete-friendly and, of course, hitting special iconic landmarks,” Kenah said. 

Some 300 to 400 qualifiers are expected to compete, with the top three female and top three male finishers who have met Olympic qualifying performance standards being named to the U.S. Olympic team. 

Kenah anticipates a large turnout of spectators. 

“We have a vibrant running community (with) about 125,000 people who finish our events each year,” he said. “We look forward to bringing out not only the running community but also general sports fans. … So 200,000-plus is what we would love to see out there.” 

The track club’s bid included travel stipends and hotel accommodations for all athletes who qualify for the trials. 

“We will deliver a race weekend where all qualifiers are treated like champions,” Kenah said. “Atlanta’s continued Olympic legacy will be an investment in the Olympic future. “

The trials will be held on the day before the annual Atlanta Marathon, which is set for March 1, 2020. 

The marathon trials most recently were held in Houston (2012) and Los Angeles (2016).

The Atlanta Track Club manages the annual July 4th AJC Peachtree Road Race.

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