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04 April 2020 | in FISU, COVID-19 updates

FISU keeps the ball rolling behind the scenes

Despite the significant challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the home of university sports continues to work efficiently behind the scenes to keep the ball rolling on many fronts.


LAUSANNE, Switzerland – It has been an unprecedented few weeks, ever since the global coronavirus outbreak enforced social distancing here in the Olympic capital. In the interest of protecting all staff, the FISU leadership took a decision on 13 March and instructed all employees to start working from home.


FISU Zoom ADMIN ITThe FISU SG and DG on a video conference meeting with the IT and Administration teams during the home working period in March 2020

“This special situation will probably change our way of planning, developing and implementing our projects,” says FISU Secretary General-CEO Eric Saintrond.  “More than ever, our community must be united, and the safety of society must be given top priority.”


“It has now been three weeks that all staff are homeworking and the shift has been made quite well, overall,” says FISU Director General Paulo Ferreira. “Naturally, we have had to adapt to a new environment, not having colleagues in close proximity. But nevertheless, work has continued. We are taking advantage of digital communication tools to setup daily meetings with specific departments, and this has allowed work to flow as planned.”


Despite the disappointment of having had to cancel all events until August 2020 due to safety reasons, FISU remains in daily contact with representatives of local organising committees (LOCs) for future FISU events.


“We have had very fruitful meetings with key stakeholders in the German bid to host the 2025 Summer World University Games, for example,” says Saintrond. “And the World University Championships team is working hard on the possibility of rescheduling some of the cancelled events, possibly to 2021.”


FISU Summer Games Director Marc Vandenplas also mentions the 2025 bid as he emphasizes the progress being made for the upcoming three editions.


“A full day Candidate City Workshop was conducted online in March for the 2025 bid and all the preparation is moving ahead,” he confirms. “For the 2023 edition in Ekaterinburg (RUS), we will try to organise the International Technical Committee visit online, with the help of technology.”


“This might be a good opportunity to revise and innovate our approach to inspection visits,” adds Summer Games Deputy Director Jing Zhao. “We have already delivered some seminars online to the LOC of Chengdu 2021 and are scheduling more functional meetings in this manner.”


Similarly, work continues on the World University Championship front too. For World University Championships Manager Julien Carrel, the focus has unsurprisingly been on management of the recent cancellations.


“Now we are monitoring the situation of the upcoming events with our Medical Commission, our national member federations and respective LOCs,” he says. “We are also assessing our revised calendars for 2020 and 2021, keeping in mind the worldwide situation and international sports calendar.”


In an ideal scenario, the first FISU event to be held after this hiatus should be the FISU Forum 2020 in Budapest, Hungary from 12-16 August.


“Work is going on, regarding the programme, the speakers and the general organisation of the Forum,” says FISU Education Manager Julien Buhajezuk. “At the same time, we are also preparing for the FISU World Conference 2021 to be held in Lucerne. A call for papers will be published in the coming days.”


“The cooperation with the LOCs of both, the World Forum and the World Conference is excellent,” he adds. “And it is very pleasant to see that despite the difficult conditions, everyone is really willing to do their best.”


As before, the FISU World Conference will be held alongside the Lucerne 2021 Winter World University Games. With just months to go before the 30th edition of the event, there is pressure on the Winter Games team to find solutions to ensure work continues.


“Despite this COVID-19 situation and cancellation of some test events, the preparation with both, Lucerne2021 and Lake Placid 2023 continues through conference calls and email,” says Milan Augustin, FISU Winter Games Director. “Together with the LOCs we try to find new solutions and we are thankful for their immense cooperation in this very difficult situation.”


“For sure, we miss the real office environment,” he adds.


Director General Paulo Ferreira acknowledges that too. “Generally, all staff is responding well to working from home as right now there is no alternative,” he says. “But everyone is in good spirits. We have had a few shared sports sessions organised by some of our staff, and many have participated in our social media challenges as well, posting their workouts, etc. So, everyone is keeping in touch.”


FISU Insta Account TAKEOVER4One of the social media challenges he refers to is the #FitATHome campaign launched by FISU Media to keep spirits and activity levels high, despite the constraints. Max Länge, FISU’s Digital Media Coordinator explains.


“With all the #UniWorlds action put on hold right now, we decided to move our focus to indoor activities, taking our audience behind the scenes with some of our great student-athletes. Every other day one student athlete takes over the @fisu Instagram account and shares their daily routine including nutrition, workouts, studies and other aspects of life.”


“The takeovers are in line with several other initiatives of ours promoting #FitAtHome on our digital channels during this difficult time of isolation,” he adds.


For the Marketing team, this break in event-driven activity has in fact given them a chance to focus on the bigger picture and longer-term planning.


“Even as we are finalising the migration from the old FISU identity to the new visual brand, we are also planning the marketing strategy for the next two years,” reveals Marketing Director Christian Monzani. “We are planning promotional activities that will create value for FISU and shape the most important aspect: the creation of a global FISU community.”


FISU Zoom MRK HCThe Marketing and Healthy Campus teams meet virtually to discuss next stepsSpeaking of community, Paulo Ferreira concludes by saying “It is also interesting to observe how flexible and adaptive we are as a team, turning what is a challenge, into something that allows us to bond and create alternate bridges.”


“Everyone is rallying to navigate this unique situation, and I am sure we will come out stronger and closer as an organisation.”


Addressing all staff, Secretary General Saintrond says “I would like to congratulate you and thank you all for your cooperation and support. It has not been easy to work from home these last three weeks, but this unprecedented situation is also an opportunity for all of us; to review our methods of managing relationships with all stakeholders.”


“The domino effect created by the cancellation of all sports events around the world has just confirmed what a fine balance it is and when disturbed, what a serious challenge it can be for all of us.  I also understand that for some sporting events and organisations, this is a very critical financial issue. I hope we all emerge from this soon.”