U SPORTS, the national brand of university sports in Canada, supports the decision announced Monday to cancel the upcoming 2021 FISU Winter Universiade, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.

The event, also known as the FISU World University Games, was originally scheduled for January 2021 but was delayed until December in response to pandemic concerns at that time. It was cancelled on Monday by the Lucerne Organizing Committee and FISU – only 12 days ahead of the Opening Ceremonies – due to rapid developments in the Omicron variant of the virus and newly announced travel restrictions imposed by the Swiss Federal Government in the past 24 hours.

U SPORTS had previously announced that nine teams from seven sports would travel to Switzerland to take part in the event including ice hockey (W & M), curling (W & M), alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowboarding and short track speed skating. The delegation was to include 144 Canadians.

“We are incredibly disappointed for our Canadian student-athletes and coaches who were so excited to compete on the international stage”, said U SPORTS Chief Sport Officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley. “However, we understand the difficult decision to cancel such a prestigious and important event. The health and safety of all participants is our primary concern. Pending ongoing pandemic impacts, U SPORTS is hopeful for a return to the FISU Winter University Games in Lake Placid, New York in January 2023.”

“U SPORTS and Team Canada would like to thank the organizers of the Lucerne Games for their efforts,” said Canadian Chef de Mission Ben Matchett. “They worked diligently to present these games in a secure manner. Their dedication and enthusiasm despite all the obstacles, a postponement, and now the cancellation are inspiring.”

A FISU member since 1965, Canada has participated in 25 past editions of the Winter Universiade, with the last missed occasion coming at the 1975 Games held in Livigno, Italy. The remaining Games without Canadian student-athletes were in 1960, 1962 and 1970.

Canada has also participated in 27 of 30 Summer Universiades, with the exception of 1959, 1961 and 1963.