72 Nations participating
2700 Athletes participating
The 1973 Moscow Universiade turned out to be the breath of fresh air the international sporting community was sorely in need of, with the world still mourning from the Munich Massacre a year earlier at the Olympic Games where 11 members of the Israeli team were killed by Palestinian terrorists.
The seventh Universiade proved to be a smash hit, the Games opening at the cavernous Lenin Stadium in front of a rabid crowd of 80,000 to welcome a record 2,700-plus athletes – among them fencer and future International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.
Bach, who also participated in a second World University Games in 1979 in Mexico City, recalled the electricity at the first major sporting event organised by the Soviet Union and the first global meet to be held since the Munich Massacre.
“What I remember most from having competed in two editions of the Universiade in Moscow 1973 and in Mexico City 1979, is the wonderful atmosphere of openness,” Bach said. “There is an immediate connection and sense of camaraderie with other university student athletes from around the world.
“My experience at the Universiade was an important part of my life in sports. As a student, you see the world as full of potential. The Universiade brings together this spirit of freedom, optimism and possibility that is shared by university students across the globe.
“It is the shared experience of this vibrant atmosphere with like-minded fellow students that make the Universiade so unique and unforgettable.”
The Soviet Union was absolutely determined to make the Universiade a rousing success as the Games were a test for the 1980 Olympiad, and the quality organisation in 1973 would lead the IOC to giving the Soviets the nod for the Summer Olympic Games seven years later.
After dominating the previous Universiade in 1970 in Turin, the Soviet Union continued to crush the competition on home soil, sweeping away 66 of the 112 gold medals awarded during the Games. The United States had another excellent campaign in the pool, almost matching its haul in Turin with 16 golds, but settled for a distant second to the host country in the medals table.
The flame went out on the Moscow Universiade after 10 days and 111 events across 10 sports. The Soviets won more than just medals during the event, they also secured unanimous acclaim.