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03 June 2021 | in Summer FISU World University Games

FISU Retro series: Edmonton 1983 Summer Universiade

The new FISU retro series showcases former FISU events to highlight the biggest moments of university sport history. The first episode commemorates the Edmonton 1983 Summer Universiade where future superstar athletes were in the making.


The Summer Universiade made its way to North America for the first time in 1983, with the 12th edition of the Universiade held in Edmonton, Canada, was highlighted by a certain royal couple and turned out to be a hugely successful event. A crowd of 60,000 flocked to the Commonwealth Stadium to see Prince Charles – accompanied by Princess Diana – introduce the Universiade during the Opening Ceremony. The royal couple captivated all of Canada during this first visit to the nation.


The entire stadium broke into a rousing chorus of happy birthday for Diana, who was celebrating her 22nd birthday that day, 1 July, which also happened to be the first Canada Day in the country’s history (prior to 1983 it had been known as Dominion Day).


The number of athletes who gathered in the capital of the province of Alberta totalled 2,400 from 73 countries, and some 19,000 volunteers helped stage a Games with significant funding from the private sector, which was a ground-breaking development for the University Sport Movement.


China had not been seen in huge numbers at an international meet since the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but the Asian giant sent a party of close to 200 to Edmonton, which underlined the allure of a city that also hosted the 1978 Commonwealth Games.


The competition itself proved intense and exciting, lifted by the performance of the Canadian athletes who finished third on the medals table behind only the Soviet Union and their North American neighbours, the United States. Alex Baumann stood out for Canada, sweeping the 200-metre and 400m individual medleys in the pool as a prelude to his gold-medal and world-record-setting heroics the following year at the Los Angeles Summer Games.


The Soviets – who topped the medal standings for the seventh consecutive Universiade – were dominant in the pool, spearheaded by Vladimir Salnikov. The Soviets captured 22 titles and shattered 18 Universiade records in Edmonton. The American campaign was powered by a pair of future NBA superstars, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, while Greg Louganis took centre stage in diving.