Canada’s participation at Summer World University Games in China limited at best

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Canada’s participation at the 2023 FISU Summer World University Games in China appeared limited at best on Thursday after two major national sport organizations said they wouldn’t be sending athletes to the multi-sport competition.

Citing the financial burden and location, Athletics Canada said it would not field a team at the July 28-Aug. 8 event in Chengdu. The decision was ratified by the national team committee that approves competitions to which Athletics Canada sends representative teams, the organization said in a news release.

Swimming Canada also confirmed it did not plan to participate at the Games. An organization spokesman said U Sports was informed of the decision in November.

“U Sports continues to engage member institutions and NSOs around the feasibility of sending a Canadian delegation to Chengdu, China, for the 2023 FISU Summer World University Games and look to make a decision in the coming weeks,” U Sports chief sport officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley said in an email.

“The student-athlete experience is at the forefront of our decision-making process, and there are many factors to assess as we make the best possible decision for our student-athletes, team staff and mission staff.”

U Sports, the national governing body of university sport, does not financially contribute to sending a delegation to the FISU Games, with costs passed along to respective national sports organizations, Athletics Canada said.

“The estimated cost from U Sports was $8,000 to $12,000 per athlete and staff member to attend this competition, making it our most expensive team in the quadrennial by a significant margin,” the release said.

“Athletics Canada does not have the necessary discretionary funding to support this team, nor do we feel it appropriate to pass these significant costs along to athletes.”

An Athletics Canada spokesperson said no further comment was planned. The U Sports leadership team had limited availability for interviews Thursday due to travel and meetings, a spokesman said.

“We are aware that Athletics Canada has decided not to participate for all the reasons they’ve cited in their statement and respect their decision,” Johnson-Stapley told The Canadian Press via email.

“We have already started discussing the participation of the track and field student-athletes and team staff in the 2025 FISU Summer Games in Germany.”

There are 18 sports on the 2023 program at the Games. The lineup is similar to the Summer Olympics with sports like basketball, swimming, tennis, volleyball and rowing on the calendar.

Messages were left Thursday with all Canadian NSOs on the program.

“With the cost being extremely high, we informed U Sports that Diving Canada would not be sending a team this summer to the FISU Games,” Diving Canada events and communications director Jeff Feeney said in an email.

Archery Canada was also out, citing schedule conflicts and high costs.

“We have not often fielded a team for the FISU Games, largely due to the financial burden on the archer in order to participate,” communications and safe sport coordinator Zoe Meil said in an email. “It is not supported by U Sports and we do not have sufficient funds to prioritize the event.”

A Water Polo Canada communications staffer said the Games were not part of the organization’s schedule. Tennis Canada said it was looking into its plans while Gymnastics Canada didn’t close the door on participation.

“We are currently evaluating the opportunity and haven’t made a concrete decision as yet,” CEO Ian Moss said in an email.

A message left with the FISU media team was not immediately returned.

Nathan White, Swimming Canada’s senior manager of communications, said athlete safety is the organization’s top concern.

“Given the complexities around travel to China at this time, and the COVID-related policies and procedures at this time, we were uncertain if we would be able to meet the requirements and expectations for the event,” he said in an email.

“Our focus for the senior Olympic program team this year will be on the World Aquatics Championships July 14-30 in Fukuoka, Japan, with the Pan Am Games Oct. 20 — Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile, representing an additional opportunity.”

Athletics Canada said its decision was also based on the adverse public health situation in China.

The organization noted ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and rise of cases in the country, entry and exit controls for travellers, isolation requirements and restrictions on freedom of movement.

“Travelers would also be subject to mandatory quarantine in a local government facility following a positive test, with the consulate of Canada having extremely limited ability to intervene,” the statement said.

“For those reasons and given that neither FISU or U Sports have published any additional information on COVID-19 mitigation protocols, the national team committee ruled that sending a team would not be prudent.”

Chengdu was originally scheduled to host the Games in 2021, but they were postponed on two occasions.

Canada was among the countries that participated in the FISU Winter World University Games last month in Lake Placid, N.Y.

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