New Approahces to Universiade Organization: Kazan Experience-2013

New Approahces to Universiade Organization: Kazan Experience-2013


O.V. Matytsin, the first vice-president of International university sport federation (FISU),
President of the Russian student sport union, Moscow

Key words: Universiade, innovations, communities, organization, federations

Universiade in Kazan will go down in the history of university sports as one of outstanding and ambitious. The innovations brought by the Kazan-2013 organizers had become valuable store. Kazan-2013 has changed the university sport, and most of all in the interest in the Universiade from the professional community and athletes themselves.

The history of winning the right to host the Universiade in Kazan is dramatic and optimistic at the same time. Today not many people remember that this right has been won on the second attempt: we were eager to fight during our first bidding campaign, but somewhat overestimated our abilities at the time. We planned to bid for the summer Universiade-2011, however the People's Republic of China had already been actively working on promotion of Shenzhen city as the candidate for 2 years. There were no Russian representatives in the FISU executive committee, so we had no access to the insider information in time and basically at all. On the other hand, we gained tremendous experience in communication with FISU Executive committee, representatives from national and international sports federations, International Olympic Committee (IOC). The base for the future was laid during the first campaign, while the capabilities of Kazan and Russia as a whole country were shown in the second campaign.

The second bid was ‘corroborated’ by the Kazan’s past experience of holding numerous events, international conferences, major World Championships and All-Russia competitions in various sports.

Such a diversified activity also contributed to formation of the atmosphere of strong support of this initiative inside Russia – from the top authorities – the President of the Russian Federation, members of the Government, Russian Olympic Committee. In addition, the attitude to the Russian Bid has changed dramatically after the results of the first campaign. We can say that leading world sports authorities were already familiar with the position of personalities promoting the candidate of Kazan – the driver of the whole project - Rustam Minnikhanov, Mintimer Shaimiev – who was the president of the Republic of Tatarstan, and of course Vyaheslav Fetisov, the head of the government agency Rossport at that time, the Mayor of  Kazan Ilsur Metshin and the representatives of Executive Directorate headed by Vladimir Leonov. The Kazan’s bid was now perceived not as a local initiative, but as a national project.

The victory was well deserved. It was not an easy win but we had an even more challenging task – to build on the success. New methods of organization of Universiade demonstrated contributed to achievement of our goals. With all possible support from the federal center and the Republic of Tatarstan, the program of the city transformation into a sports developing center came to life. During all these years Kazan was called the sports capital of Russia. The investments were directed to construction of sports facilities, development of the city and transport infrastructure, creating the climate for young people and universities to work in the partnership. The Universiade Village was built, that for the first time in the history opened its doors three years before the start of the Games.

The task of hosting the Universiade at the highest international level would not have been accomplished without careful studying of the international experience in this area. The experience, gained in cooperation with national and international sports federations and with the cities – organizers of the world sports events, past and future, is a valued know-how of the Kazan 2013 organizing team. This team learned the most progressive methods in the sports industry, from stadium projects to logistic solutions. Plans and projects of almost all newly constructed venues for different sports were analyzed and scrutinized. The Kazan 2013 OC representatives took part in the IOC Observer programs during several Olympic games, Asian Games and different World Championships. The Volga region Academy of Physical Culture was built and is actively operating now, serving the basis for the unique FISU international educational center, established by the agreement between the Ministry of sport of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tatarstan, FISU and Russian Students Sport Union.

New aspects of university sport

Several innovations originated when getting ready for the Kazan-2013, that changed the main university sport event. First, it was the Universiade torch relay. We are pleased that the Russian initiative to use this attribute of the Olympic movement was adopted by FISU. The Universiade fire was lit in Sorbonne – where the first university games were held in 1923. Then on board of the sailing barque “Sedov”, going around all the continents, the Universiade flame arrived in Vladivostok, and torchbearers carried it across Russia. Torch relay became a powerful unifying impulse. As the FISU President Claude-Louis Gallien says, the Universiade is only 12 days of competitions, that are preceded by 5-6 years of the preparation work, and after these 12 days the legacy will be preserved for years and even decades. Torch relay – is one of the projects that fully meets this philosophy. Now this relay will become a tradition at Universiades, and the hosts of the next competition will use the experience of Kazan-2013. We have worked out some regulating issues of the torch relay, its protocol. All of this has become a part of the Russian investments in the development of the international university sports movement.

Another innovation that originated in Russia is the FISU Gala event. This ceremony is a kind of "Oscar" for university sport. During the Gala event the best universities, international federations and partners - all those who contributed to the development of the international university sport are honored and awarded. The script and a set of nominations for the Gala event were prepared; besides, this event opens the opportunities for the presentation of the cities - candidatures for hosting future Universiades.

I would also like to bring attention to other important undertaking - the debriefing procedure that was borrowed from the Olympic experience: Kazan-2013 OC organized a series of meetings with their Chinese colleagues, who hosted the previous Universiade in order to share the experience and analyze the best practices. This also happened for the first time in the history of the university sports movement.

The next step aimed at the legacy preservation is the volunteer program of Kazan-2013. 20 thousand volunteers were involved in the Universiade. The program of their training is closely related to the training program for Sochi 2014 volunteers. The Republic of Tatarstan and the Sochi-2014 Organizing Committee signed the agreement on the exchange of experience, so the experience gained by the Sochi-2014 team was available in Kazan. This is another prime example of how professional teams are working on a common result.

Universiade represents a celebration of youth and sport spirit and the image of its organizers’ team matches it: generally young people around 30 years old worked  at every location in Kazan, they were well-educated, spoke several languages ​​and were familiar with the international experience both in terms of infrastructure, and in view of interaction with partners.

From Kazan to Sochi

Kazan-2013 opened the series of global sports events in Russia. Originally, the Universiade can be considered to be some kind of rehearsal for the Sochi Games. During such a rehearsal one can “fine tune” many functions of the major international multi-sport event organization - TV coverage, security, medical service, (we must note that with all due respect to Sochi-2014, according the statistics the scale of Kazan Universiade is bigger: 351 sets of medals were awarded in 27 sports, although the audience differs and Olympic games have a unique interest of TV viewers all over the world).

For the first time in the Universiade history the ticketing program was implemented in Kazan 2013 (in this regard during previous Universiades ticketing process remained on the strictly amateur level). The broad search for information and commercial partners enabled to demonstrate that a project in the field of university sport can be organized in the professional manner, using current trends and, in particular, the Olympic experience. It is a valuable experience for the FISU.

During the 27th World Summer Universiade 2013 in Kazan the international conference “University and Olympic sport: two models - one goal?”, devoted to the development of the university  sport, was organized. The question mark in the main theme indicates its openness for discussions of various kinds, while also confirms that it’s time to analyze it this aspect. And if once university games were created as a copy of Olympic Games, now, taken into account the audience and the specifics, it can note the special mission of Universiades.

The importance of Universiades is growing.

In recent years the interest in Unviersiades has grown in the professional sports community, and Kazan kept the issue on the boil. As most international sports federations, the FISU office is now based in Lausanne, and in recent years we feel that the attitude of different sport authorities has become more serious. We can see from our colleagues that they understand meaningful role of Universiades in the global sports community, and our relationship has become a true partnership. From the organizational point of view, this means contracting with all international federations, under the aegis of which athletes perform at Universiades in the compulsory sports program.  Agreements cover not only the period of the Universiade, but other activities too. In particular, FISU is an active participant in the international convention “SportAccord”, the latest convention was held in St. Petersburg in May this year, in addition, the federation takes part in all major international sports events and exhibitions. The organization of global sports events is a serious business where it is necessary to maintain a high level to be an equal and successful partner.

The growing interest is expressed in the qualitative new level of representation. Elite athletes, Olympics Games and world championship participants take part in Universiades. They see with their own eyes that both the venues and the organizational level meet the highest demands applied to major international competitions, and this encourages best athletes to show their capabilities at their maximum.

Let me go into some details. The FISU defined objective criteria for athletes - potential participants of Universiades - are students of a certain age (up to 27 years in all sports except basketball, where the age limit is set at 25 years according to the special agreement with FIBA). The difficulties are possible when negotiating international events calendar and athlete’s calendar. Above mentioned difficulties led to some problems in preparation in the previous Universiades. But today we can say that Summer Universiades are thoughtfully included in the international calendar, to avoid interfering with other competitions and, as a consequence, the causing inconveniences to athletes. The situation with Winter Universiades is somewhat more complicated. Most recently, World Cups in a number of sports or the Asian Games were organized at the same time as Winter Universiades.

It is a matter of mutual respect and cooperation with the IOC. When it is decided positively on the international level, it is easier for the national federations and teams to motivate potential participants. Speaking of our domestic experience, before winning the right to host Kazan 2013 SU, the Universiade was not even listed in the Unified Sports Classification of Russia (EVSK) among the competitions where the title of “Master of Sport of international grade” could be awarded.  Previously this title could be awarded as an exception to the rule for achieving best results in Summer or Winter Universiades. Now Universiade is approved to be included in EVSK. It is an important step to increase of athletes’ motivation. In addition, the Governmental Decision on financial rewards for Universiade participants: for their success in previous Universiades a presidential scholarship was granted. Thus, the system of relationships is being built where it becomes interesting and profitable for an athlete to participate in the Universiade from the career point of view. Also this contributes to his confidence: even if the level of competition is slightly lower than at the Olympics, but it is also very honorable to win a medal. In addition, the issue of the introduction of changes in the Unified Sports Classification of Russia (EVSK) and the confirmation of the status of the Russian student team was resolved, we are talking about moral and material incentives for athletes.

Russian Student Sports Union collaborates with all-Russian sports federations as an equal partner, concluding agreements and working together on a national sports calendar.  Thus,  only within the Russian team 18 Olympic champions and 50 Olympic medalists, over 100 merited masters of sports and over 300 masters of sports of international grade took part in the Kazan 2013 SU.

Speaking the same language.

Previously in the FISU history it happened so that the host city (usually due to economic reasons) did not have time to put venues into operation in advance and the Universiade was the first major competition being held at these facilities. Needless to say how great is the risk of overlap and failures in such a situation. To avoid such situations in the future, test events are obligatory now. We have carefully studied the rules and requirements of the IOC in this area, and many rules positive and acceptable from our point of view were included in the FISU Regulations. The mandatory condition was introduced - test event for each of the Universiade sports venues by holding a high representative international or national competition. If we talk about Kazan venues - mainly international competitions, like World University Championships, World Cups, European Championships, were held there in 2013.

If we go deeper into the “mechanics”, you can imagine the importance of the teamwork. a lot of parties interact in the preparation of the competitions. They are representatives of both national and international sports federations (competitions are held according to the rules and requirements of the international sports federations), the local organizing committee and managers of specific venues where the competitions are held. First of all, the need to speak the same language arises both literally (in English as a language of international communication), and figuratively - meaning the language of a particular sport.

In several countries, with a specific national culture, such as Asian countries, without having enough knowledge of the host country culture and traditions and “tuned” mutual collaboration procedure it was often very difficult to find the right solutions in the last moment. Thanks to Kazan, one of the innovations to the Universiade’s organizers was the requirement not to change the staff of the OC, at least those in key positions, three months before the beginning of the future Universiade. Sometimes you had to face such changes due to administrative reasons, and this caused inconvenience in terms of communication, that led to a loss of the rhythm in the organizational process (at this stage it is necessary to solve specific issues promptly, but not to train new people). Maintaining stability in communication is the aspect of principle importance.

The Russian party has also initiated the FISU approving the procedure of attribution of the right to host the Universiade: not three years prior to the start, but five years in advance. This longer preparation period gives more time to the host country for investments, recruiting and training professional organizers’ team, promotion of the city and the country, attracting partners and cooperation with the international community.

Investments that are made by the federal center and the Republic, surely, should be used not only during the 12 days of the Universiade. Even before the Universiade the most modern sport venues were not used only for training of professional athletes but for ordinary people to keep fit. These investments work for the social improvement, for the new attitude to physical culture and sport. New airport, transport infrastructure, Athlete’s Village – these are the components of the strong platform for the development of sports and sports tourism. The Universiade is an impulse for the development of tourism and, not only sports tourism. Kazan has always been famous for its hospitality. And the more comfortable and friendly to the visitor the city is, and this is what the new infrastructure serves for, the more attractive it is for tourists and businessmen.


  1. Matytsin, O.V. Very high standard set by Kazan and Russia [Electronic source]: official web site of the directorate of the XXVII World Summer Student Games-2013 in Kazan / O.V. Matytsin. – Kazan – URL: (In Russian)