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Spotlight: Take a look back to the Torino 1959 Summer Universiade

Take a trip back through 60 years of Universiade history. First stop, where it all started with the Torino 1959 Summer Universiade.


“The Universiade constitutes an event of singular significance for the world of university sport. More important than the competitive results will be emergence of a warmer friendship between the university students of the world, which will provide a wider understanding and serve as a model of higher ideals for these students.” – Mario Allara, Rector of Torino University


With a decade of discord between the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and International Students Union (IUS) finally behind them, Torino would write its name in the history books as the birthplace of the Summer Universiade, which saw university athletes from both FISU and IUS participating together for the first time.


It was the local organisers (the Italian University Sports Association, or CUSI), led by the incomparable Dr Primo Nebiolo, that would christen the games the Universiade. It was also the Italians who gave the world the flag of the Universiade and adopted Gaudeamus Igitur as its official anthem.


In total, 43 countries took part in the event, including African nations Nigeria and Sierra Leone before either had officially gained independence.


Not everyone had smooth passage to Torino, however. The Maoist Chinese delegation, made up of four male athletes and their entourage, managed to get as far as Moscow before they were refused entry into Italy. Not for the first time, Nebiolo, who would go on to become FISU’s most influential president from 1961-1999, came up with an ingenious solution. He had the delegation travel to Prague, where the Chinese were told to join the ISU, which at the time was recognised as an important international organisation. The Chinese were then able to travel together with Czechoslovakian students to Torino as ISU members.


On the field of play, 985 athletes (865 men and 120 women) competed in seven sports in Torino – athletics, basketball, fencing, swimming, water polo, tennis, and volleyball. An impressive 12 university swimming records and 17 athletics records were broken.


The impact that the Torino Universiade had on university sports cannot be understated. The success of the event, the thawing of relations between the East and West, and the growing influence within FISU of Dr Nebiolo would leave their mark for decades to come.






Source: FISU

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