165 Nations participating
6657 Athletes participating
The 2001 Beijing Universiade was always going to be special, but with the host city learning only a month before the Opening Ceremony that they had won the rights to host the Olympic Games in 2008, there was an added touch of magic surrounding the 21st Summer World University Games.
The local organisers proved to be impeccable hosts, welcoming a then record 6,757 participants from 165 countries.
No expense was spared to make sure the Universiade was a success – and a success especially for Chinese athletes. The hosts entered 294 athletes in total (a 90-percent increase from Belgrade 1999), which helped China top the medals table for the first time with 103 medals, 54 of which were gold.
After appearances at the 1991, 1995 and 1997 Universiades, rhythmic gymnastics became an obligatory sport in Beijing. While the Chinese ruled the team events, it was a then 19-year-old from the Ukraine who was the star of the individual competition. Tamara Yerofeyeva won four individual gold medals and one team silver in Beijing, adding to the future four-time World Champion’s impressive 300-plus medals won for her country over her eight-year career.
Beijing was estimated to have spent more than USD 120 million on new venues and renovations of existing facilities, with another USD 88 million put into the Athletes’ Village.
But the real value of the Universiade to China was the learning curve it brought in hosting major multi-sports events. The local organising committee used the Universiade as a dress rehearsal for the Olympic Games and as such made the most of every opportunity to learn from the FISU technical staff and the International Federations. The experience accumulated in 2001 gave the country the confidence to bid for and host future multi-sports events, while also effectively showcasing the country as a reliable partner that could not only deliver world-class events but exceed all expectations in the process.
FISU President George E. Killian lavished praise on the organsiation of the Beijing Universiade, telling journalists at the closing press conference: “Everything has been what we have expected. I do not know what more we could do to make it a superb Universide. We have no negative thoughts whatever.”
“The Beijing Universiade in 2001 was an occasion for me to resume high-level competition after a year dedicated entirely to my studies. It was an Olympic atmosphere with a little extra: the awareness that the sporting adventure only lasts for a while. Take full advantage of it, give yourself the chance to succeed but do not forget your future!”
2001 Beijing Universiade bronze medalist, Sydney 2000 Olympic silver medalist, 1999 World Champion backstroke swimmer and future French Sports Minsiter Roxana Mărăcineanu