North Carolina to host Olympic-style summer games for college athletes in 2029

The World University Games are finally coming to North Carolina and the Triangle.

The state, which lost its bid to host the 2027 Olympic-style Summer Games for student athletes, was awarded the bid for the 2029 Games by the International University Sports Federation, known as FISU, on Tuesday. The federation’s executive committee on Tuesday afternoon voted for North Carolina, making it only the second time the Summer Games will be held in the United States

“We are excited for the opportunity to host the 2029 World University Games in North Carolina. Our state has world-class facilities, a deep passion for college sports and legendary Southern hospitality that will make these Games a success,” Gov. Roy Cooper wrote on Twitter.

The World University Games Summer, which was first held in 1959, is aimed at student athletes between the ages of 18 and 25. There are 15 mandatory sports, including Olympic staples such as track and field, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, volleyball and water polo. Baseball, rugby and softball could be added in 2029.

Events are held in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and Greensboro. More than 7,000 athletes are expected to compete in 18 sports over a 12-day period at the China 2021 Games. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said it will be “the largest event our state has ever hosted.”

Buffalo, New York hosted the 1993 Summer Games, the only other US host.

“We are the varsity area where we celebrate varsity sports,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told WRAL News. “And I think what’s going to happen is that these athletes come here and they feel so welcome. You will feel like part of our community.”

The state lost its bid to host the 2027 World University Games to Chungcheong, South Korea. But that offer, which FISU staff rated highest in the technical evaluation, paved the way for North Carolina to host the 2029 Games. Baldwin traveled to Brussels for the November 2027 announcement.

“We thought we had a good chance of winning that and it was so disappointing,” she said. “They said to us at the time, ‘Well, what about 2029? These things don’t happen by accident. It takes planning and hard work, and it really takes building relationships and connections, and I think we’ve nailed this organization.”

FISU President Leonz Eder said, “Since that time, we have worked diligently with our members and staff to best secure North Carolina as the future host of the FISU Games.”

The organization also hosts Winter Games, which will be held in Lake Placid, New York beginning January 12.

Hosting the Games is comparable to a major corporate move in terms of economic impact, said Hill Carrow, the chair and executive director of the North Carolina Bid Committee, affiliated with the Triangle Sports Commission.

“The FISU Games will have a $150 million local economic impact but with the added benefits of significant international tourism and global branding,” Carrow said.

Potential venues in Cary include WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary Tennis Park and the USA Baseball National Training Complex, said William Davis, manager of athletic facilities for the city of Cary.

“We already host a lot of high-profile events, so we feel ready,” Davis said, citing the NCAA soccer championships, professional tennis tournaments and US baseball competitions. “So that the kids can go out and train in a field and then have a national caliber game on it the next night, it shows those kids that it can be anywhere and in their own backyard.”

Baldwin said, “This puts us on a map we’ve never been on before.”