The Winter Universiade returned to Italy for a third time in 1985, when the Games were held in Belluno, 10 years after Livigno and 19 years after Sestriere.
After boycotts by the major nations at the two most recent Olympic Games – Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 – the XII Winter World University Games drew more than 538 athletes from 29 countries and four continents. At the Opening Ceremony held at the Piazza dei Martiri in the center of Belluno, athletes from the Soviet Union, United States, China and the Koreas marched together despite the political tension of the times that had cast a cloud over the Olympic world.
Ignazio Lojacono, President of the Italian University Sports Centre (CUSI), hailed the spirit with which the Belluno Universiade was organised: “(The Universiade) must not be so much a matter of competition, but rather a festival of youth in which racial, ideological and religious differences are outweighed by cultural values that are united in common aspiration for peace,” he said.
Lojacono’s sentiments were later echoed by Roger Roth, Chairman of the FISU International Technical Committee, who also recalled a few interesting episodes from Belluno.
“It was a very impressive Opening Ceremony,” said the former Swiss skier. “Athletes from all over the world, from different political divides, marched in the city and exchanged pins. And it all happened in a public forum where locals could come and see.”
“The night before the giant slalom competitions, some students stole the flags with the FISU “U” symbol and the competitions were postponed until the guilty parties returned them. In the end, nobody came forward and the flags were replaced with something else. I remember good Italian food and wine throughout the event, and the hospitality we received in the small family hotels.”
Belluno was the stage for the debut of short-track speed skating in the Universiade programme, a discipline that would be admitted to the Olympics seven years later by the International Olympic Committee off the success in the Universiade. Short track turned out to be a hugely popular spectator sport, with the Canadians winning the inaugural gold in both the team and individual events. The Soviet Union ran its streak of leading the medal standings to nine consecutive Games, a stretch that dated back to Sestriere in 1966.
29 Countries participating
538 Athletes participating