FISU was officially formed in 1949, but its origin goes back to the 1920 when the Frenchman, Jean Petitjean, organized the first "World Student Games" in Paris in May 1923.
The following year saw the birth of the International Confederation of Students (I.C.S.), which held a congress in Warsaw. Several delegations took part and the movement was launched. From 1925 to 1939, many great sporting events were organized by the students and the I.C.S. : in Prague in 1925, Rome in 1927, then again in Paris, Darmstadt (1930), Turin (1933), Budapest (1935), Paris (1937), Monaco (1939).
Team Canada Past Medalists
The Second World War interrupted these meetings, but when peace was restored, France re-launched the World University Games.
This peace was relative, because the shadow of the Cold War soon divided university sport. In 1949, although the International Students Union (I.S.U.) organised Games at which very few Western countries participated, the International University Sports Federation (FISU), born the previous year in Luxembourg, was officially founded and organised its first International University Sports Weeks bringing together the western delegations. These meetings took place notably in Merano (1949), Luxembourg (1951), Dortmund (1953) and San Sebastian (1955).
In a new departure in 1957, the French Federation organised a World University Sports Championship which brought together students from Eastern and Western blocks.
From this meeting came the desire to organise a universal event in which students from all over the world could participate.
In 1959, FISU and the I.S.U. agreed to participate in the games organised in Turin by the Italian association : C.U.S.I. That year was undoubtedly the one that left the biggest impression on our federation. In fact, the Italian organisers baptised these 1959 games with the name Universiade. They created the flag with a "U" surrounded by stars, which was going to begin its journey around the world, and replaced the national anthems at the medal-awarding ceremonies by the Gaudeamus Igitur.
The Universiade in Turin was a success for the local Executive Committee and for the man who was going to change the future of the university sports movement : Dr Primo NEBIOLO. At this Universiade, which brought together 43 different countries and 1,400 participants, many non-member federations asked to become members of FISU.
However, even though university sports finally led a peaceful coexistence, the modus vivendi still needed to be established. In addition to the agreement that was made concerning national symbols (neither flags nor anthems) and on the programme, FISU determined its philosophy in article 2 of its statutes by stipulating : "FISU pursues its objects without consideration or discrimination of a political, denominational or racial nature".
From then on, FISU was to organise the Games on a worldwide level.
Ever since this important period, the Universiades continues to attract more and more participants. We went from a total of 1407 participants in Turin '59 - including 985 student-athletes - to a total of 6009 in 1999 (Palma de Mallorca) - including 4076 student-athletes - from more than 125 countries!
The Winter Universiades experienced the same success. In fact, our statistics show that 98 athletes participated in 1958 at the Universiade in Zeel-Am-See while 1007 from 41 countries came to the Universiade in Zakopane in 2001.
The expansion of university sport around the world created a new need for meetings and competitions in order to complete the Universiade programme. Thus, FISU has also supervised the World University Championships since the early sixties.
These championships, which take place on even years and which have had increasing success as the years go on, guarantee continuity in the competitions programme. They also allow a large number of students and university sports leaders to unite on occasions other than at Universiades.