(ATR) New dates for the postponed 2021 Winter Universiade appear likely for December of next year.
Whether Lucerne, Switzerland remains the host for the International University Sports Federation (FISU) student-athlete focused event is still to be determined.
FISU secretary general Eric Saintrond tells Around the Rings that the December 2021 timeframe is preferred by many of its national university sport federations, in addition to the winter International Federations.
"We launched a survey among our membership, where we received more than 40 answers, and two-thirds of them would like to go to December 2021," Saintrond said. "Our membership received the money for 2021 and if we organize in 2022, then they will have no money."
Saintrond said all efforts are being made for the FISU showcase event, originally scheduled for January 21-31, 2021, to remain in Lucerne and the surrounding resorts and regions.
"Lucerne is quite complicated – the agreement involves six cantons and now we have to discuss with each and every government of the six cantons to agree on the new dates and new period to secure the venues for the organizing committee," he said. "This is not so easy.
"They are available of course in January 2021, but we’re not sure if they will be available in December or even January of 2022," he added.
A newly formed task force comprised of FISU, the Lucerne Organizing Committee and other key Swiss stakeholders is exploring proposed dates and related logistics. Saintrond insists that the end of October remains the target date for announcing the host and new dates.
"We want to be in Switzerland and organize the Games in Lucerne – we can be flexible in the number of events, we can reduce the program, everything is possible, but soon we have to inform the countries," he said. "They have to prepare their teams in agreement with their national sports federations and they need time to do this."
Saintrond said it is too early to disclose other candidates, however he advised: "For sure, many countries where we have been in the past and know FISU very well are ready to help, but the priority remains Switzerland."
While December 2021 remains the target date, lack of sufficient snow in early winter could present challenges.
"We are not sure we would have enough snow for the Alpine events," Saintrond said, while also expressing optimism that a Swiss ski area with ample snow in another region could be utilized.
The FISU executive said the financial impact of the postponement would be somewhat mitigated if the Games are kept in 2021. And the timing of a rescheduled event in 2022 would conflict with the Beijing 2022 Winter Games
"The national sports federations in winter sports are preparing the teams for the Olympic Games," he said. "They will not support preparing a team for University Games in 2022."
Although not optimal, January or March of 2022 are secondary options, according to Saintrond.
Saintrond also noted that if the Universiade is not staged in 2021, hockey powerhouses like Russia and Canada will not send teams as their national federations will be occupied with organizing teams for Beijing 2022.
"We have to be flexible, even if we have to organize the Games in two parts, in December and part of January," Saintrond revelaed. "We can try to find solutions not to hurt anyone. If we have no players, we have no Games."
The Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade was cancelled in late August due to the coronavirus pandemic, one decisive factor being the current entry restrictions into Switzerland affecting numerous countries.
Saintrond conceded that if a reliable host location and accompanying dates cannot be ascertained, the 30th Winter Universiade could face cancellation and individual Winter Sports Championships in various locations held instead.
The Winter Universiade or World Winter University Games, under the FISU umbrella, have been held every two years since the inaugural edition in Chamonix 1960. They have only been staged in Switzerland once previously – in Villars, 1962.
Lake Placid Winter Universiade 2023
While FISU’s focus is obviously on the 30th Winter Universiade, Saintrond says the student-athlete focused organization is thrilled for a return to Lake Placid, New York, in 2023. The venerable U.S. winter sports mecca previously hosted the Universiade in 1972, in addition to Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.
FISU president Oleg Matytsin addressed Adirondack Sports Council members during a virtual YouTube channel meeting of the New York State politicians on Wednesday.
The Russian sports leader, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, alluded to the "Miracle on Ice" ice hockey game contested between the United States and the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
"Different people have different perceptions of the Miracle on Ice." Matytsin said humorously, referring to the 1980 result when the youthful U.S. squad shocked the heavily favored four-time defending Olympic champion Russians.
"But there is one thing we can all agree on," Matytsin continued. "That 40 years ago, that winning team was made up mainly of young university athletes. And when university athletes come together to play winter sport in Lake Placid, they can achieve remarkable things. Miraculous things."
"For us, to be part of the process to renovate and upgrade all the venues in Lake Placid is extremely important," Saintrond added. "It is a fantastic place for winter athletes to train and I believe we will have great Games there."
The Lake Placid Winter Universiade is scheduled for January 12-22, 2023.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli
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