The two-day meeting of the EUSA Supervision Commission in Belgrade, four months before the start of the fifth European Universities Games in our capital, was an opportunity to see the progress in the organization. About the most important things for the success of such a project, from EUSA perspective, we had the opportunity to hear a lot from Vice President Mr Haris Pavletic, who was also the Executive Director of the 3rd European Universities Games in Zagreb and Rijeka in 2016.
Are you satisfied with seen and done during the meeting in Belgrade?
– We are very pleased with the preparations for the 5th European Universities Games. Especially from the perspective of the situation we were a year ago, when we actually started from scratch. Progress is great. Everything is going in a great direction; we will have great Games in Belgrade in few months. Our biggest challenge, if we make a parallel to past Games, is the construction and reconstruction of student dormitories. Given to what we saw during the Student City tour is that 2,000 new rooms with internet and air conditioning will welcome students, therefore we have great news. Until a few months ago, we weren’t sure if it would happen, but now students have something to look forward to. Already Belgrade has something to be proud of when it comes to this organization.
Talking to EUSA people, there is a clear saying that “only sports competitions come and go, and that the most important things are related to what will raise the student standard.”
– Legacy is a major question for all future and potential organizers of the European Universities Games – what is left behind. We are not interested in organizing only a sporting event where someone will compete for 15 days and then the story will end. Our idea is that the city, state and university see the Games as a space to build infrastructure and create any other “legacy” that will remain for a long time after the Games themselves. The idea behind everyone is infrastructure, whether the construction of a new student dormitory in Rijeka, whether the renovation of student dormitories in Zagreb, and now in Belgrade. On the other hand, the construction of stadiums and sport venues. It is hard to find budget year after year, but it comes in handy when it comes to organizing a competition, when we somehow force a state or city to invest in something that remains for students and some future generations.
You have had experience working on the third Games 2016 in Rijeka and Zagreb. The legacy is quite…
– When we started the idea of organizing the Games in 2012, it was to improve student accommodation. We had a student dormitory in Rijeka in very bad condition. We had plan that we should work on new dormitories, but that was not a priority and was constantly being delayed. We had good facilities in Zagreb, but something that has not been restored, some things from the 1987 Universiade. That was the guiding thought, to create a sports project that would raise the student’s standard. We have involved the state, cities and benefits from the European funds available to build three pavilions in Rijeka with some 750 beds and renovate 4,000 beds in two student dormitories in Zagreb on the Sava and Cvjetni. That remained behind the Games. Students, who live there for four years now, are very pleased. Especially in Rijeka, where capacity has increased from 650 to 1,400 beds. There are plans for Rijeka to receive three more pavilions on the campus with 750 beds, bringing the capacity to 2,000. It’s something that’s left over and left to talk about. It is worth the event and all the effort that is put into it.
It has been repeatedly outlined by EUSA that there is no fear that Serbia, as an experienced organizer of major sporting events, will be at the highest possible level this time. What is your opinion?
– From the beginning we had no worries about it. We know that Serbia, especially Belgrade, is an experienced organizer, not only of sporting events but also of various events, there was no fear there. We were always trying to look for that “legacy” because sport was never in question. Even when problems appeared in the organization we were aware that we will pull the sports competition, but the question of legacy has left. We weren’t sure. Now we see that it will pass too. It means a lot to us. In the end, it will be of importance to everyone. New rooms, new beds and bathrooms, air conditioning and internet all raise the standard for Belgrade students. I believe they will be cheered in the end, though at this point it may be incompatible with them. We had such problems in Zagreb as well. We had to make a plan for how to reconstruct everything, and to annoy the students in their obligations as little as possible. Quite simply, such things have to be done and some jobs take time. We know about the problems, we had the same, but in the end we are all satisfied.
The special feature of the Games is the inclusion of disabled athletes, who compete at the same time as their colleagues.
– We started this in Zagreb and Rijeka when para-sports appeared in the EUSA family. It’s worth it. Students with disabilities must be inclusive with all other students. It’s a “must” because we have to show that we are all together in academic community, in sports or anything else. So we continued with Coimbra.
An important part of the EUG project is the organization of the Rector’s Conference.
– Very important, because the emphasis is on universities. Rectors are an essential part of the story. We want them to really recognize the importance of sports and the development of physical exercise in their universities, and therefore develop as much as possible. Maybe America is an extreme model, but Europe also needs to improve in that regard. We are constantly emphasizing this, and the Rector’s Conference should push it forward. We need to support students with “dual careers”, sports and education must go together. We cannot have athletes who are not interested in school, as well as scientists who neglect physical activity. Judging by the reports, we will have a large number of rectors in Belgrade. This will mean a lot to EUSA, especially to Belgrade University – concludes EUSA Vice President Mr Haris Pavletic.