The International University Sports Federation, FISU, developed within university institutions to propagate sports values and promote sports practice in perfect synergy and complementarity with the university spirit.

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The Precursors

At the beginning of the 19th century, competitive sport took its first steps, guided by one of its precursors and the father of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. It was in the United States, England and Switzerland that the first inter-university meets were held. They gradually led to the emergence of university sports associations, the first of which came into being in the United States in 1905. Unlike the Olympic Movement, which had an international structure from 1894 onwards, the International Confederation of Students wasn’t established until 1919. It was this organization’s Sports Committee that was to launch the first World University Games in 1923.

The Beginning

Jean Petitjean– FISU was officially formed in 1949, but its origin goes back to the 1920s when Frenchman Jean Petitjean organized the first ‘World Student Games‘ in Paris in May 1923. The following year, the International Confederation of Students (ICS) associated itself with this movement. From 1925 to 1939, many great sporting events were organised by the students and the ICS: in Prague (1925), Rome (1927), again in Paris(1928), Darmstadt (1930), Turin (1933), Budapest (1935), Paris (1937), Monaco(1939). The Second World War interrupted these meets, but when peace was restored, France re-launched the World University Games.

1949: Creation of FISU

Dr. Paul Schleimer–  The peace was relative, and the shadow of the cold war soon divided university sport. In 1946, the International Students Union (ISU) was created in Prague to pursue the works of the International Confederation of Students, and it organized the 9th World University Games in 1947. After those games, the increasing politicization of the ISU led to a division within the university sports movement. In 1948, the International University Sports Federation (FISU) was created under the impetus of Paul Schleimer of Luxembourg, and it launched the International University Sport Weeks in 1949 in Merano, Italy. Other editions followed: in Luxembourg (1951), Dortmund(1953) and San Sebastian (1955). In 1957, the French federation organized a World University Sports Championship which brought together students from the Eastern and Western blocks. From this meet arose the desire to organize a universal event in which students from all over the world could participate.


First Universiade

Dr. Primo Nebiolo- In 1959, FISU and the ISU agreed to participate in the games organized in Turin, Italy, by CUSI, the Italian Student Sports Association. That year was undoubtedly the one that left the biggest impression on our federation. In fact, the Italian organizers baptized these 1959 games Universiade’. They created the flag with a ‘U’ surrounded by stars, which was to begin its journey around the world, and replaced the national anthems at the medal-awarding ceremonies with Gaudeamus Igitur. The Universiade in Turin was a success for the local Executive Committee, as well as for the man who was to change the future of the university sports movement: Dr. Primo NEBIOLO. During this Universiade, which brought together 43 countries and 1,400 participants, many non-member federations applied to become members of FISU. However, even though university sport was developing in a peaceful environment, the modus vivendi still needed to be established. In addition to the agreement that had been made concerning national symbols (neither flags nor anthems) and the program, FISU defined its philosophy in article 2 of its statutes by stipulating: ‘FISU pursues its objects without consideration or discrimination of a political, denominational or racial nature‘. From then on, FISU was to organize the games at worldwide level.

The Expansion of University Sport

Ever since this important period, the Universiades have continued to attract more and more participants. Starting with a total of 1,407 participants in Turin, Italy, in 1959, we reached a total of 6,757 participants from more than 165 countries in Beijing, China, in 2001, and 6,643 participants from 174 countries in Daegu, Korea, in 2003. The highest number of participants was registered at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia, i.e. 11,759 representing 159 countries. The Winter Universiades experience the same success. In fact, our statistics show that 98 athletes participated in the games in Zell-Am-See, Austria, in 1958, while a record of 2,668 participants from 52 countries came to the Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy, in 2013. The expansion of university sport around the world created a new need for meets and competitions to complete the Universiade program. As a consequence, FISU launched the World University Championships in the early sixties.

Universiade Turin 1970

Over 50 years, more than 300 championships have been organized, covering a large range of events (almost always different from the Universiade sports) and gathering  participants from all over the world. Meant to guarantee continuity in the competition program, these championships take place on even-numbered years and experience an increasing success over the years. They allow a large number of students and university sports leaders to get together on occasions other than Universiades. In 2000, 20 World University Championships were held in different places for different sports, attracting 3,623 participants. In 2002, 24 World University Championships were held, attracting 4,228 participants from 83 countries. In 2010, 27 championships were staged, bringing together 4,431 participants. For 2014, 29 WUC were attributed.

Following a breathtaking 27th Summer Universiade in Kazan (RUS) where no more than eleven (11) Championship sports where present, as well as a successful year of World University Championships in 2012, where 27 events took place in 17 countries over 4 continents, the 2014 edition of WUCs is at hand.

Starting early March and running until mid-December, the 2014 World University Championships will include a FISU record equalling 29 events in a single year, this time in 24 countries and over the 5 continents (17 Europe, 8 Asia, 2 America, 1 Africa and 1 Oceania).

The Championships will take place for the first time in six countries, i.e. Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

The 2015, 2017 and 2019 editions of the Summer Universiade were attributed respectively to the cities of Gwangju (Korea), Taipei City (Tapei) and Brasilia (Brazil). The 2015 edition of the Winter Universiade has been attributed to Granada (Spain) whereas the 2017 and 2019 events will be held in Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Krasnoyarsk (Russia) respectively.

FISU supports these competitions which give student-athletes the opportunity to come together from all around the world in a spirit of understanding and peace, with a view to obtaining results at high technical level.