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Spotlight: Remember the Villars 1962 Winter Universiade

Take a trip back through 60 years of Universiade history. The second stop on this FISU history tour of the Winter Universiade takes us across Lake Geneva from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc to Villars, a mountain village in the western Swiss Vaud Alps


The second edition of the Winter Universiade took a few twists and turns before winding up in Villars in the French-speaking Swiss canton of Vaud.


Originally scheduled to be held in Davos, which held a university games in 1930, the 1962 Universiade was then offered to St. Moritz, which hosted a university games in 1935 and the Olympic Winter Games in 1928 and 1948. But with only 10 months to go, the universities in the German-speaking part of Switzerland renounced the Universiade due to the participation of Eastern Bloc countries, leading St. Moritz to also pull out. This left Villars with the unenviable task of having to pick up the pieces and prepare for the major multisport event with zero time to spare.


Thankfully, university support in Vaud was strong. Indeed, the success of the 1962 Universiade was only possible due to the Swiss University Sports Association (ASUS), with the precious support of former students and members of the Swiss Academic Skiing (SAS), who took their holidays during the period of the Universiade to volunteer at their own expense.


Villars welcomed 273 athletes from 23 nations in total. In addition to the European countries that had performed so admirably in the first Winter Universiade, teams also came from Japan, New Zealand, Lebanon and the United States.


One of the young stars of Villars 1962 was Willy Bogner Jr., who won two golds and a bronze in Alpine skiing. Bogner went on to become a successful fashion designer and filmmaker (working as a cameraman for the iconic skiing scenes in early James Bond films). Tragically, his girlfriend, Barbi Henneberger, lost her life at the age of 23 in an avalanche during the filming of Bogner’s first film, 1966’s Ski Fascination. Henneberger herself won three gold medals in Alpine skiing for Germany at the Villars Universiade.


Despite being home to some of the finest ski resorts in the world, the 1962 Universiade was the last major winter multisport event to be held in Switzerland, with the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games and 2021 Lucerne Universiade, signaling Switzerland’s return to the global hosting calendar after numerous failed attempts to land the Olympic Games during the ensuing years.






Source: FISU

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