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World Athletics (formerly the IAAF)

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What is World Athletics (formerly the IAAF)?

World Athletics is the worldwide governing body for professional level athletics and track and field. Its purpose is to create and regulate professional level meets and to set the standards for administering competitions, using equipment, and documenting world records. Its role as a world leader in athletics, transforming an amateur fad into a professional industry, has made a huge impact on professional sports.


The International Amateur Athletics Federation was founded on July 17th, 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden by representatives of athletics federations from around the world. The IAAF was founded because in the late 1800's athletics, along with many other sports, became very popular. In order to maintain consistent athletics standards a worldwide governing body needed to be formed for professional level athletics. Although it was still considered to be an amateur sport, both athletics and the IAAF continued to grow over the next half a century. Since its inception, the IAAF has grown a great deal, the number of people on the council increasing from seven to 27 and the number of member federations increasing from 17 to 212. In the 1970's the IAAF introduced the World Athletics Series which along with the Olympic Games were the championships of professional level athletics. In 1985, realizing the value and professionalism of professional level athletics, the IAAF began providing compensation for athletes. In 2001, the IAAF changed their name from the International Amateur Athletics Federation to the International Association of Athletics Federations because of the changing worldview of professional level athletics. In 2019, the IAAF changed their name to World Athletics.


The World Athletics consists of 214 member federations; one for each participating nation that are divided into six area associations by continent. As of 2021, the organization is governed under the leadership of President Sebastian Coe. He is a member of the World Athletics council which also consists of four vice presidents, the treasurer, a representative from each area association, and fifteen other members. The World Athletics council has the power to administer all of the affairs of the organization, including appointing jobs, making urgent decisions, managing the budget, and creating development programs. The council is a part of the World Athletics congress which also consists of at the most three members of each member federation and special honorary members. The World Athletics congress has the power to amend rules and regulations, to establish competitions, and to hand out awards.


The World Athletics administers many professional level competitions worldwide. Its long list of competitions include the World Athletics Series, the international championships of athletics, which consists of competitions usually held every two years that range from the World Indoor Championships to the World Race Walking Cup. The World Athletics also administers smaller scale, annual series of one day competitions, including the Diamond League, the World Athletics Road Races, and the Race Walking Challenge. Though not directly involved, the World Athletics officially recognizes the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games as very important professional level competitions.

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