University Games’ diminished clout

IZMIR, Turkey – Until the 1980s, the University Games used to be one of the world’s premier sports events. Now, they are an event mostly for the host country, which must go through the logistically difficult process of organizing an Olympic-size event with no hope of any comparable benefits. The members of the International University Sports Federation (FISU) face the following dilemma: Should they try to make the Games regain their former glory or should they forego the chasing of big records and promote the sporting ideal, which puts participation above all? The majority tend toward the latter, but they are the weaker financially. Everything in world sports depends on sponsors, whose only concern is TV ratings. High ratings need big names and world records. How can the University Games attract the names when they are staged in the same year as the world athletics and swimming championships? There is no doubt the best athletes will choose to participate in those event that offer the more lucrative rewards. The Greek team does contain some big names – in lesser-known sports. One, Sydney Olympic champion Michalis Mouroutsos, got Greece its first medal, a bronze, in the 74-kilogram category of the tae kwon do competition. Mouroutsos has gone up two weight categories, from 57-kg previously. «These games were a good test for my new weight category. The University Games are a very good training ground for the European Championships, in October,» he said.

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