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12 June 2020 | in Summer FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Edmonton 1983 World University Games

Take a trip back through 60 years of Universiade history. The 23rd stop on FISU's Universiade history tour takes us back along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River for the Edmonton 1983 World University Games

Edmonton1983 stadium

The Summer Universiade made its way to North America for the first time in 1983, when the 12th edition of the World University Games was held in Edmonton, Canada, with a certain royal couple highlighting what turned out to be a hugely successful event.


Edmonton1983 Charles Barkley BasketballWith a crowd of 60,000 flocking to the Commonwealth Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, the Universiade was opened by Prince Charles, accompanied by Princess Diana, who captivated all of Canada during their 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 sports 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.

Edmonton1983 opening ceremonyThe Edmonton 1983 World University Games provided the opportunity for Princess Diana and Prince Charles to visit the nation and open the 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.

Edmonton1983 diver

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, though they came home from the Universiade as silver medalists. American Greg Louganis took centre stage in diving, a prelude to his double gold medal performances at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.


On a tragic note, Soviet diver Sergei Chalibashvili died after hitting his head on the platform while attempting a reverse 31/2 somersault in the tuck position. He was 21 years old.