FISU, the search for a host city turns into Ghost City fears

by Xinyu Yang, AIPS Young Reporter, China

DOHA, February 11, 2016 – At the 79th AIPS Congress, newly elected president of FISU Oleg Matytsin spoke about the organization’s latest activities and the power of university sport to the gathered members and guests. During the presentation, the plans for FISU’s new marketing department and future business partnerships were laid out. The FISU president also highlighted the importance of the relationship between FISU and AIPS, more so given the fact that the two organizations launched their first Young Reporters Programme together at the 2011 Summer Universiade in Shenzhen.

After the presentation, AIPS spoke to Matysin and asked about the primary goal of establishing a new marketing department, and whether this meant the organization was taking on a slightly more commercialized role.

Matysin said, “Not at all. Finding the right partners is what we want to achieve by setting up a marketing department. We want to be visible and interesting. The products of FISU are university students. If FISU can provide the best conditions for university students to communicate through sports, it means we are valuable as a business partner. Marketing is just about how to be visible to the whole community. There are 150 million students in the world, 30% of which are involved in sport. The population is vast.”

Matysin also spoke about FISU’s greatest challenges at the moment:

“It might be hard to believe, but the first one is that it is getting more and more difficult for us to find a host city for big sports events, like our summer and winter Universiades. That is due to the difficult financial situation in so many parts of the whole world.”

“Secondly, it’s hard to compete with other international sports federations such as the IOC or FIFA. Our vision for the future is to integrate sports in university culture. But we still have a long road ahead “

Holding large-scale sporting events has become a financial risk for a city and an entire country. The financial crisis is still very much present in many parts of the world. This is one of the reasons why the citizens of Boston and Hamburg were against hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. The financial uncertainty of hosting such events has come into the spotlight more than ever before, with citizens worried that the raise in prices, rent and taxes, and surpassed budgets far outweigh the positives. After the oversized, and partially ill-communicated price tag of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, only two cities were left as candidates for the 2022 Winter Games, with the likes of Munich, Oslo and others pulling out early in the race.

Sport however is still used like a soft tool for many developing countries such as Qatar, China, and Brazil. These countries are using large-scale events for recognition and prestige, with Beijing set to host the 2022 Winter Games, winning out in the two-horse candidature race against Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The Universiade, FISU’s flagship event is the second largest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympic Games. But given the many transitions and upheavals in the world of sport, even organizations such as FISU, whose events do not require the spending power of the Olympic Games, are experiencing crisis. When asked about how such challenges can be overcome, the FISU president replied, “We are trying to transformer our system to reach out to all students, not just student athletes. To find the right partners, countries and universities to create a sporting culture among all students.”

Maybe this is a time for not only FISU, but all sports federations to change. In terms of discovering new ways of being visible and in demand, but remaining clear guardians of the purity and ethics of sport.

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