2021 Winter Universiade falls victim to omnicron variant

The 2021 Winter Universiade was cancelled as the result of restrictions stemming from concerns over the omnicron variant of Covid-19. The newly announced restrictions were the final nail in the coffin for a sporting event that had already been postponed once as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lights on for the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade. Photo provided by: Lucerne 2021 Organizing Committee
Lights on for the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade. Photo provided by: Lucerne 2021 Organizing Committee

The 2021 Winter Universiade due to be held in Lucerne, Switzerland from December 11 to 21, 2021 has been cancelled due to organizational complications arising from the emergence of the omnicron variant of Covid-19. The decision was announced by the FISU and Lucerne 2021 a mere week before sporting action was scheduled to begin.

The Executive Committee of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), in conjunction with the Board of Directors of the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade Association, came to the decision as a result of the travel restrictions imposed on international arrivals by the Swiss Federal Government.

The restrictions stem from the recent discovery of the omnicron variant of Covid-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the omnicron variant as a variant of concern.

Under the new restrictions, many arriving athletes would have to undergo a 10-day quarantine that would likely affect their ability to train, compete, or move about the country. The restrictions would also have an impact on the ability of necessary personnel, in areas such as timing and scoring or television production, to travel to the country, thus creating further complications for organizers.

FISU Acting President Leonz Eder commented on the cancellation, saying, “in the face of travel restrictions being imposed in Switzerland and all around the world, we have had no other choice but to cancel the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade.”

“This decision was made with a very heavy heart. So many of my fellow Swiss university sports colleagues had already given so much, for so long to this event. But the new travel restrictions mean that staging the event has now been made impossible.”

He concluded, “on behalf of FISU, I would like to offer our solidarity and sincere gratitude to the organising committee of Lucerne 2021 and all the partners who have been working so hard to provide a magical Alpine moment. FISU is also deeply saddened for the delegations from National University Sports Federations from all around the world who had been looking forward to Lucerne 2021.”

Eric Saintrond, FISU Secretary General-CEO, further explained the reasoning for the cancellation stating, “Holding the event in December was already a plan B, so postponing again was not an option. I am deeply saddened to announce that our dream to hold this prestigious event in Switzerland this year is now over. Current times have been difficult for major international sporting organisations, and FISU has unfortunately not been spared from the pandemic.”

“The beauty of being able to hold a major event with guests, athletes and collaborators from all five continents is something that has become part of our everyday lives here at FISU. The cancelation of the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade makes us appreciate even more the amazing environment that we are part of, and we feel more determined than ever before to keep the dreams of current and future student-athletes alive.”

Mike Kurt, President of Swiss University Sports, added, “we are incredibly sad that we will not be able to hold this great event and would like to thank everyone who has worked and invested so much over the past years.”

“We are convinced that Lucerne 2021 will leave a long-term legacy for Swiss sport despite the cancellation. For example, almost 50 legacy projects were launched or implemented around the Winter Universiade in areas such as strengthening dual careers, sports infrastructure, sports development, and innovation in Swiss sport.”

The next Winter Universiade is scheduled to be held in the winter following the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. The event will be hosted by two-time Olympic host city Lake Placid. The 2023 Winter Universiade will run from January 12 to 22, 2023.