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20 November 2020 | in Summer FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Beijing 2001 Summer Universiade


When the university sports world converged in Beijing for the 21st edition of the Summer Universiade, it was a path-breaking occasion as it marked the first global sports event to take place in China. Take a trip down memory lane to what took place in the city that’s set to become the first locale to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Bejing 01 019

The Beijing 2001 Summer 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.


Bejing 01 005The 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.


Bejing 01   003After 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 organisation 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.”

Bejing 01 007 copyThe opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2001 Summer Universiade were a cultural tour de force that helped usher in a whole generation of international sports events to China in the ensuing years