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NC is in the running to host the 2027 Summer World University Games.
Get ready to break out your best college swag, Raleighites, because if everything goes according to plan, you could be one of the projected 600,000 spectators expected to assemble in central North Carolina for the 2027 Summer World University Games (!).
Held every other year in the odd year, this competition comes second only to the Olympic Games for largest global Olympic multisport event. And right now, two cities remain in contention to host the games: the Chungcheong region of South Korea and, drumroll, North Carolina’s University Hub region, spread across Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill, Elon and Greensboro.
“For purposes of the bid, this region has been branded as North Carolina’s University Hub,” says Hill Carrow, chairman and CEO of the North Carolina Bid Committee, a large group of individuals helping lead the initiative to host the games, “which is particularly appropriate when you consider the fact that the area is home to 19 colleges and universities.”
If chosen, the state will play host to more than 10,000 student-athletes, officials, coaches, administrators and support staff representing 150 countries for nearly two weeks that July. And when it comes to the types of sporting events, you can expect quite the roster, as each Summer World University Games includes 15 compulsory sports—think tennis, volleyball, judo, archery, basketball—and up to three optional sports chosen by the organizer (fun fact: If chosen, it’s been OK’d for us to hold four optional sports).
“This is the first time North Carolina has ever even made it to this level of international competition for a global event of this stature,” says Carrow. “It’s an opportunity to be much more significant on the world’s stage.”
So how’d little old Raleigh even get into the running? The summer games—along with the Winter World University Games and World University Championships—are governed by the International University Sports Federation, based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The U.S. arm of the FISU, the USIUSF, chooses a host city/state each time it wants to submit a bid to host an FISU event. New York’s Lake Placid was the pick to host the 1972 and 2023 winter games, and Buffalo, the 1993 summer games.
Back in 2018, when the world was debating Yanny vs. Laurel, the Triangle Sports Commission and the USIUSF started talking about the possibility of North Carolina hosting the games, with conversations focused on the Triangle, but “over time it became apparent that, to host an event of the magnitude of the games (which typically requires more than 50 venues), Greensboro needed to be added to the host region,” explains Carrow. “This was the same footprint used to host the highly successful U.S. Olympic Festival (North Carolina’s largest event to date) in 1987, so we have good experience with collaboration across the [University Hub] region.”
Fast-forward three years to February 2021 when the USIUSF officially chose North Carolina to be its partner and sent a letter of intent to the FISU. Roughly a year later, in early 2022, the FISU announced North Carolina as one of its two finalists.
“Part of the positive momentum for our bid comes from the fact that we’re trying to land this event the year prior to the Los Angeles [2028 Summer] Olympic Games, and that will be the year after the [2026 FIFA] World Cup in the U.S.,” says Carrow. “It’s really important to be the year prior to the LA games because that’ll ensure the best college athletes in the world come and compete in this event since each one will be trying to position themselves to be on their respective country’s Olympic teams the following year.”
Carrow says the NCBC continues to work “every day, all day” to land the games. The committee led FISU officials on their first site visit the first week of August and submitted their final bid later in the month. An additional site visit by FISU staff will take place the third week of September before a final decision is made in November (stay tuned!).
“I’m a real superstitious guy—I grew up in Eastern North Carolina—so we try not to jinx ourselves, but we feel good about our bid,” says Carrow. “We definitely feel like, with all the venues and athlete housing already in place, we have everything it takes structurally and operationally to do the games.”
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