Leonz Eder

With campuses having known long shutdowns, the pandemic has had a severe impact on university life and university sport. Despite this, however, the future for international university sport looks bright. From the inspiration of indoor athletes during the first lockdowns to the studies noting decreased activity in our children, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of sport and physical activity in the very fabric of our society. It has reminded us of the need to always strive towards a healthier and more active society for the future.

Here at the International University Sports Federation (FISU), we have embraced this need to not just recover from the challenges of the past year, but to build back better, securing the future of the university sport movement. We have continued to implement our Global Strategy 2027 with unrelenting focus so that we can help today’s students become active members of our global society, shaped in part through their experiences of international university sport.

The double attribution of the 2025 summer and winter edition of the FISU World University Games to Rhine-Ruhr, Germany and Turin, Italy respectively is clear evidence of securing this future. The successful bids were both incredibly strong. Their ability to combine sport, education and culture aligned perfectly with the ethos of the FISU Games. But in today’s context, we have had to be extremely diligent in refining our value proposition to potential hosts.

Rhine-Ruhr will host the Summer World University Games in 2025 ©Land NRW/Bowinkelmann
Rhine-Ruhr will host the Summer World University Games in 2025 ©Land NRW/Bowinkelmann

We have learned that, for a social legacy to be forged, it is also FISU’s responsibility to enable this to materialise at all steps of our attribution process, in addition to during and after the event. The tangible benefits of hosting must be clearly articulated. This is why we have adopted a model which prioritises a cost-efficient, sustainable and legacy-driven approach while adapting to the specific resources and needs of our city partners. Thanks to this approach, we have been able to ensure that University sport’s flagship event remains a valuable and attractive proposition for a diverse range of cities.

We only have to look back to Naples and Krasnoyarsk, our 2019 summer and winter hosts respectively, to see the huge potential for the FISU World University Games to leave bright and also varied legacies. In Krasnoyarsk, the venues are now home to local teams and families. In Naples, meanwhile, the FISU Games delivered a revival for older iconic venues, together with the sustainable revival of sports culture among the region’s youth.

And we have no doubt that both Chengdu and Lucerne will have just as great an impact in their own ways. Looking further ahead, Ekaterinburg and Lake Placid 2023 as well as Rhine-Ruhr and Turin 2025 will no doubt further demonstrate how legacies can be extended. Meanwhile, this legacy-driven approach has helped to secure interest even further into the future, with an exciting array of cities having already expressed an interest for the 2027 and 2029 editions of the FISU World University Games.

It is an old adage that change is the only constant and we also recognise the importance of never slowing our efforts. Our response to campus closures has been to redouble our efforts aimed at ensuring universities are platforms for teaching healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

FISU’s Healthy Campus programme will also be key to revitalising active campuses, and we are excited to now build on the 73 universities from 37 countries who are already on track to become officially certified.

Now more than ever, sport and physical activity must play a role in building a healthier and more active society in our recovery from the pandemic. In the future, we will need leaders who remain committed to keeping sport and physical activity at the heart of our societies. Universities are the place where those characters will be forged. FISU and its members will continue to do all it can to keep universities as places of sport and we are very grateful to our host cities for the vital part they play.