"Excellence in Mind and Body," is the motto of the International University Sport Federation.
It is an organization responsible for worldwide competition of student-athletes in 50 sport competition programs. The FISU stages its events every two years and they include summer and winter games. More than 170 national federations belong to the sports organization, from five continents.
According to its website, the FISU permanently links the academic world with sports by hosting a number of educational events – conferences, forums and seminars. "These events closely assist in promoting sports as one of the main components of the educational system.... Promoting sports values means encouraging friendship, fraternity, fair-play, perseverance, integrity, cooperation and application among students, who one day will have responsibilities and even key positions in politics, the economy, culture and industry."
FISU was formed within university institutions in order to promote sports values and encourage sport practices in harmony with and complementary to the university spirit.
My personal involvement with FISU began in 1972 when Lake Placid, New York, was host to the FISU Winter Games. More than 600 student-athletes from 23 countries participated. I was recruited as a translator of Slavic languages. Soon, I noticed that the student-athletes, housed at the famous Lake Placid Club, had transportation available only to the sport venues. They wanted to go shopping and mingle with local residents.
I made an offer to FISU officials to organize a local People-for-People Program. With the help of the local radio station, newspapers and service organizations, such as the Kiwanis, Lions and others, we were in business within hours.
Bill McLaughin, a newspaper reporter quoted me saying, "We asked area residents to welcome competitors to their homes. The response was so overwhelming and the result so gratifying that the People-for-People Program will become a permanent feature of future international sport and cultural events in Lake Placid."
Indeed, the Program became part of the 1980 Winter Olympics also held in Lake Placid, and received worldwide publicity.
Lake Placid is now exploring hosting the 2023 FISU World University Games. According to the Lake Placid News, "Local leaders see a possible 2023 games as a much-desired economic stimulant for the area, a clear reason to get funding to improve winter sports venues and a shot in the arm for the region's brand as a world-class winter sport destination."
One of the bidding committee's selling points in securing the games may be an event that took place during the 1972 FISU games.
Galina Karelina of the Soviet Union, won the Gold Medal in figure skating. The organizers of the People-for-People Program learned that the charming figure skater would be married to a famous Russian hockey player upon her return to Moscow. They decided that as a token of appreciation and friendship she should be presented with a wedding gown. While trying it on in a local fashion shop, she was photographed by an Associated Press reporter. The photo and the accompanying story went viral, published in newspapers around the world.
One East European student-athlete who was taken shopping, sightseeing and to dinner by an American family, remarked: "Your government organized this Program very well." When he was told that it was started on a moment's notice, privately and on local initiative, he just shook his head disbelievingly.
Considering the effort being made to attract more visitors to our area, Williamsburg, in cooperation with the College of William and Mary, could pursue a bid to be selected as the site of future FISU summer games. The rewards could be considerable.
Shatz, a Williamsburg resident, is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," a compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at Bruton Parish Shop and on Amazon.com.