The consequences of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been felt strongly in the world of sport. The enormity of the situation can be gauged by the fact that the last time the Olympic Games were cancelled before this, was during World War II. FISU events on the 2020 calendar have also borne the brunt of this unprecedented solution. Fifteen World University Championships, scheduled from March through to August, had to be cancelled for health and safety reasons.
One of the most awaited Championships of the year was Futsal, which was to be held from 19-26 July in Poznan, Poland.
“The cancellation did not come as a surprise to us, as day after day we were following the tragic news about the spread of the COVID-19,” says our Tomasz Szponder, Chairman of the Organising Committee. “We were aware that this was the only possible and right decision.
“The Organising Committee has not been dissolved,” says his colleague Piotr Kus, the Sports Director of the OC. “We have already put much effort and resources into the organisation of the event and we continue to stay in touch with all our partners and stakeholder, ready to renegotiate agreements and contracts, if and when the event is rescheduled.”
“Of course, our disappointment is huge,” adds Szponder. “But all members of the OC are fully convinced that the health of participants is the greatest priority and that all sports events, WUC included, can be held only in a safe environment and during safe times.”
Péter Horváth of the Hungarian Federation of American Football is equally disappointed. One of the main persons responsible for the hosting of the WUC American Football in Székesfehérvár (HUN) from 4 -14 June, Horváth says the situation has been really hard on them.
“It was really hard work, to make this event happen,” he says. “A lot of work and money had gone into developing the venue. It is always upsetting when two years of work go in vain.”
“Unfortunately, we are not very hopeful that we will host this event in the future,” he continues. “The city of Székesfehérvár was the main sponsor of this event and due to this virus, there are already big financial losses, so they will not be able to sponsor this event in the following years and that is perfectly understandable.
However, he does see the silver lining. “The preparation was good, and we did a lot of good work, that is why we are proud of ourselves. We are a small federation, but we did a great job that I’m proud of.”
Two events that were on the cards in China – Wushu and Squash – also had to be cancelled.
“After the outbreak of the coronavirus in China this January, we immediately discussed with the OC of Liaoyang about the possible impact on the World University Wushu Championship,” says Sun Wei of the Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC), also closely involved with both WUC events. “The Liaoyang OC had started to refurbish the venue and develop the official website etc… But after an evaluation, the OC proposed to FISU to cancel this event. The FUSC would like to show its firm support for the decision made by FISU to protect the health and wellbeing of all participants. We do hope normal life will come back soon.”
Wushu and Squash were both to be held in July, with Shanghai as the host for Squash. As was the case with Wushu, the Organising Committee started preparing for all eventualities rather early.
Day 3 of the Wushu events in Taipei include semi-final bouts in men’s and women’s sanda
“We started to pay attention to the global COVID-19 situation very early and applied for postponement of the event,” says Didi Zhang, Event Manager of the 2020 FISU World University Squash Championship. “By the time the event was cancelled, our OC had completed the first stage of intentional registrations, started the official website and finished the venue layout design etc.”
“In fact, preparation is still moving forward, and we are ready to restart at any time,” continues Zhang. “We stay in contact with FISU and sincerely hope that the event could be rescheduled to an appropriate time in the future.”
“It has been challenging but on behalf of the OC and my team, I highly appreciate FISU’s guidance and prompt reactions in this situation.”
The World University Orienteering Championship that was to be held in Smolensk, Russian Federation from 14-18 July 2020, was also among the cancelled events.
“We are very upset but so far we are not discouraged,” says Dr. Anastasia Byshevskaia, Head of International Relations Department at the Smolensk Academy of Sports and Tourism and member of the local Оrganising Сommittee. “We still try to keep up with the preparations for the event. The Administration of the Smolensk region has already made a considerable contribution, financially and infrastructure-wise, to the facilities for the Championship.”
“We really hope to host and hold the Championship after this situation tides over. It would be great to have a chance to hold the event in 2021. We hope that our future participants also consider the same, keep training and look forward to the championship!”