History of the World University Games

Passion continues to burn in Torino. It all began right here, in 1959, when Primo Nebiolo conceived the Universiade: the first summer edition was held in the capital city of Regione Piemonte from August 26th  to September 7th, also taking advantage of the facilities built to celebrate the centenary of the Unification of Italy two years later (1961).

Nebiolo held many important institutional roles in his life: member IOC (International Olympic Committee), president IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), president FISU (International University Sports Federation), president FIDAL (Italian Athletics Federation). His great career as a sports executive, however, began in 1946 with the creation of CUS Torino (Turin University Sports Center), which is the largest Italian multi-sport organization for number of disciplines practiced, and of which he was the historic president until his death on November 7, 1999. Since 2000, the role has been held by Riccardo D’Elicio.

Torino 1959

The Games were organized in Torino by Centro Universitario Sportivo Italiano (CUSI), the Italian University Sports Association: 1,407 student-athletes from 43 countries across all continents gathered in the Italian city for this event which finally showed promise to reconciliation. A flag with a ‘U’ surrounded by 5 stars with the colors of the 5 continents (blue, yellow, black, green and red) began its journey around the world, while the traditional academic song Gaudeamus Igitur played at all the official ceremonies as the official hymn of the Universiade. No national anthems were actually played, which is still the case today. The Turin 1959 Summer Universiade was also a success for the local Organising Committee and particularly its leader Dr. Nebiolo – the man who was to change the future of the University Sport Movement and bring into the path of globalisation

Piemonte and Universiade

Regione Piemonte hosted twice the summer Games (Torino 1959 and Torino 1970) and three times the winter edition with Sestriere 1966 and Torino 2007. Last time, the FISU Games were one year after the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Torino 2006), while this time the will anticipate the Milano Cortina 2026 ones.

Road to 2025

On September 20, a delegation from Lake Placid will arrive in Torino to light the Flame of Knowledge for the next World University Games Winter, as the event will be called from now on. The XXXI edition will take place in the State of New York from January 12 to 22, 2023. Lake Placid will be the host city of the FISU Games for the second time in his history after the 1972. During the Closing Ceremony on January 22, Torino will receive the FISU flag, ready to stage the XXXII edition from January 13 to 23, 2025.

The first Winter Universiade: Chamonix 1960

The first Winter Universiade was staged in 1960 from February 28th to March 8th. Sixteen nations gathered in France, for a total of 220 athletes, competing in 5 sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, ski jumping and nordic combined.

Growth of the Universiade

Ever since, the Universiades have continued to attract more and more participants. Starting with 1,407 participants in Turin in 1959, the Universiade saw a total of 6,757 participants from more than 165 countries in Beijing in 2001 and 6,643 participants from 174 countries in Daegu in 2003. The highest number of participants was registered at the Kazan 2013 Summer Universiade, with 11,759 athletes representing 159 countries. The Winter Universiades began with 220 athletes from 16 countries in Chamonix in 1960 and saw a record over 3,000 athletes from 58 nations in Krasnoyarsk in 2019.

Italy and the Universiade

The country that has hosted the highest number of editions of the Universiade is Italy: twelve (7 summer edition, 5 in the winter). The latest summer of these is the XXX edition, held in Naples in 2019, while on the winter side we have to go back to Trentino 2013. The twelfth time will be the XXXII winter Universiade, scheduled in Torino in 2025.