After nearly four decades of bypassing the United States, track and field’s marquee event is finally headed to the country that has been the dominant force in the sport.

The small Oregon city of Eugene, a town steeped in American track history and the home of the University of Oregon, was surprisingly chosen Thursday as host of the 2021 world athletics championships.

The IAAF, the governing body of the sport, said the decision was driven by the popularity of track and field in the American market.

“In granting the championships to Eugene, the IAAF Council have made a clear choice on a strategic decision that enables us to take advantage of a unique opportunity that may never arise again,” IAAF President Lamine Diack said in a statement.

The world athletics championships have been held every two years since 1991, the third edition of the competition. The first world championships were held in 1983 in Helsinki, Finland, followed by Rome in 1987.

The 2015 competition will be held in Beijing, followed by London in 2017 and Doha, Qatar, in 2019.

Although the United States has never hosted the championships, the country’s athletes have dominated the medals table, finishing at the top of the list in 11 of the 14 previous competitions. The other three times the Americans were second.

The IAAF said it bypassed the usual bidding process and chose Eugene because of the financial support offered by the governor of Oregon and the United States Olympic Committee, as well as NBC’s commitment to produce and broadcast the event.

While cities usually compete to hold such events, the IAAF also awarded the 2007 world championships to Osaka, Japan, without opening it to bidding.

Eugene’s bid last November to host the 2019 world championships was not successful. But the city renewed its lobbying for the 2021 edition over recent months with a fresh proposal to the IAAF.

The leader of that effort, Vin Lananna, said the IAAF would not regret its decision.

“We promise to deliver an outstanding championships for the sport of track and field in America and around the world,” Lananna said.

Diack said Eugene offered access to a key market for athletics and would further the sport’s global development.

The announcement came during the second half of the IAAF Council meeting in Beijing.

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