In 1999 Lewis was named one of the century's greatest athletes at the Sports Illustrated 20th Century Sports Awards ceremony. In 2000 he said he still felt he could compete at the Olympic trials but would not do so until the problem of athletes using drugs was addressed. He still attended the games in Sydney, Australia, participating in a ceremony to honor the McDonald's Olympic Achievers, young people from around the world chosen for their success in school-work, athletics, and community service. In December 2001 Lewis was elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. He also tried acting, appearing in the 2002 television movie Atomic Twister.
With the rise of numerous regional championships, as well as the growth in Olympic-style multi-sport events (such as the Commonwealth Games and the Pan-American Games ), competitions between international track and field athletes became widespread. From the 1960s onwards, the sport gained more exposure and commercial appeal through television coverage and the increasing wealth of nations. After over half a century of amateurism, the amateur status of the sport began to be displaced by growing professionalism in the late 1970s.  As a result, the Amateur Athletic Union was dissolved in the United States and it was replaced with a non-amateur body solely focused on the sport of athletics: The Athletics Congress (later USA Track and Field ).  The IAAF soon followed suit in 1982, abandoning amateurism, and later removing all references to it from its name by rebranding itself as the International Association of Athletics Federations.  The following year saw the establishment of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics —the first ever global competition just for athletics—which, with the Olympics, became one of track and field's most prestigious competitions.