The event in Switzerland has been postponed ©FISU

The Lucerne 2021 Winter World University Games will not take place in January as initially planned because of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers have announced.

The International University Sports Federation (FISU), the Organising Committee and Swiss University Sports are to discuss possible alternative dates.

The event had been scheduled to run from January 21 to 31.

"After more than four years of preparation it is a painful decision, but in the end an easy one," Organising Committee President Guido Graf said.

"The health of all the participants has always been the top priority in our evaluations."

FISU cited the fact that 40 per cent of registered participants - including those form China and the United States - are currently not allowed to enter Switzerland as being a key factor behind the postponement.

Gatherings of more than 1,000 people are still banned in the country and there are additionally growing fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases across Europe.

The FISU calendar has been heavily impacted by the global health crisis, with no World University Championships currently scheduled in 2020.

"After several meetings held with the State authorities of Switzerland and the different Cantons involved in hosting Lucerne 2021, we have unanimously agreed that the 30th Winter Universiade cannot be held in January 2021," FISU secretary general and chief executive Eric Saintrond said.

"We are sure this is the right decision in order to ensure the high-level standard of the event and the safety of all participants."

Krasnoyarsk in Russia hosted the last Winter Universiate in 2019 ©Krasnoyarsk 2019
Krasnoyarsk in Russia hosted the last Winter Universiate in 2019 ©Krasnoyarsk 2019

FISU said that discussions over whether the Winter World University Games can be moved to alternate dates will take place over the next two months. 

With the global health situation hard to predict and FISU previously saying that none of the latest 2020 World University Championships to be called off will be staged next year because of the "tight international sports calendar in 2021", identifying new dates will not be easy.

The following year, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are set to be held from February 4 to 20.

Lucerne 2021 managing director Urs Hunkeler said that there was support for holding the event at a later date.

"We will examine various time frames in detail together with all our partners," Hunkeler commented.

"On the one hand, this evaluation will focus on the timing of the postponement, and on the other hand on the willingness to accompany us during a later event.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Organising Committee members as well as all our partners for their great commitment and support.

"Many have already indicated that they will be part of the event at a later date too. 

"This is a great appreciation and motivation for the evaluations that are now pending."

Summer World University Games are also scheduled to take place next year, with Chengdu in China set to host the event in August.