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Universiade

Universiade '83In July of 1983, the city of Edmonton hosted the World University Games, also known as Universiade ’83. The games were an important milestone for Northlands Park, Edmonton, and the country. Second in size only to the Olympics, and twice as large and more prestigious than the Commonwealth Games, the occasion filled the city with excitement.

The games usually attracted about 85 participant countries that were represented by youth enrolled in post-secondary institutions. Often regarded as a drafting zone for future Olympians, there was a strong sense of tradition and importance imbued in the games.

Competitive summer sportEdmonton’s mayor, in conjunction with the University of Alberta and stakeholders such as Edmonton Northlands worked hard to tailor a proposition to host the ’83 games. This required visioning in terms of how to accommodate the huge numbers of people that would be coming into the city. It also required collaboration to construct new facilities and make the best use of existing ones such as the Northlands Coliseum (now Rexall Place).

Based on its strong bid, Edmonton was short-listed as a possible host city and its representatives went to London, England to present a plan it would follow if approved. In 1980, Universiade’s governing body, The Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire decided to grant Edmonton the grand opportunity. The feat was a true event, as the city’s winning bid made it the first Universiade to occur in Canada or the United States.

A contributing factor in the decision was the clearly outlined use of Edmonton’s facilities for the requisite sports: swimming, diving, water polo, tennis, cycling, basketball, gymnastics, fencing, and cycling. The Coliseum was to serve as one of the major venues, being the site for volleyball and gymnastics. Years leading up to the games were spent in preparation, renovating the venues and conceptualizing events.

VolleyballTo facilitate the preparation process, the Universiade ’83 Edmonton Corporation was created. Two prominent Edmonton Northlands board members, Don Sprague and Jim Hole were involved in administering the games through the corporate body. They were kept busy with the numerous minute details that went into executing an event of such huge proportions.

Aside from sports taking place at the games, other Universiade activities included dance, music, and art events. Importance was placed on cultural exchange through the coming together of international athletes and spectators. Save for one tragic accident, in which a young Russian diver injured his head and later died, the games were a resounding success. With the help of what was previously Edmonton Northlands, the city’s hosting capacities had been proven.

Participating countries had totaled 72, and the 3,451 athletes, coaches, doctors, and trainers visiting the city had expressed their pleasure with its facilities and people.

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