By Gary Anderson at the Grand Hotel Trento

December 21 - Espa claims that the city of Granada is ready to welcome the students of the world in  ©AFP/Getty ImagesAhead of officially receiving the International University Sports Federation (FISU) flag at tonight's Trentino 2013 Closing Ceremony, the President of Granada 2015 has declared here they are ready for the next Games.

Aurelio Urena Espa is here  leading the Spanish delegation who will take over the mantle of hosting the next edition of the Winter event once the 2013 Games are declared officially closed in Alba di Canazei.

"We are ready," Espa told insidethegames.

"Granada is the best city in Spain and perhaps in the south of Europe to receive students.

"We have experience of receiving students and we already have a lot of international students in Granada and we are waiting for the rest of the world [to come].

"They are going to experience a fantastic atmosphere.

"[We] are an historic university city.

"The University of Granada has been there almost 500 years and the international university movement is very important here.

"To receive the most important sporting event in the world for students is very significant for Granada."

FISU awarded Granada hosting rights for the 2015 Winter Universiade in 2009 after the Spanish city was the only bidder.

The successful bid was centred on the Sierra Nevada mountain range which will stage the skiing events in 2015 and which has vast experience in hosting major international events in the past, including World Championships and World Cups.

Despite experiencing some of the hottest annual temperatures in Europe in some parts of the country, the vast mountain ranges that dissect the central belt of Spain, running from the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the south to the Pyrenees in the north, has resulted in a long history of skiing and winter sports in the country.

Granada 2015 OC President Aurelio Urena Espa told insidethegames that the city is ready for the 27th Winter Universiade ©Gary Anderson/ITGGranada 2015 OC President Aurelio Urena Espa has claimed the city is ready for the 27th Winter Universiade ©Gary Anderson/ITG

But, ice sports such as curling, skating and ice hockey, which are part of the Winter Universiade programme, are not well established in Spain, where there are said to be less than 20 ice rinks in the whole country.

Espa conceded this is not ideal, but insisted that the 2015 Universiade represents an opportunity to buck this trend.

"The most difficult thing for us will be organising the ice sports, because the tradition in Granada is for snow sports," he said.

"We have experience in hosting World Championships but this is the first time we have to organise ice sports.

"This is a beautiful challenge because it will create a new future and image for winter sports in Granada.

"We can balance between the traditional snow sports and the new competitions for ice sports."

Spain has hosted the Winter Universiade on two previous occasions, both taking place in Jaca in 1981 and 1995, while Palma de Mallorca staged the 1999 Summer Universiade.

Espa, a former coach of the Spanish women's volleyball team at four Summer Universiades, was fulsome in his praise for the organisation of the Universiade here and claimed that it can provide a model for Granada to follow in terms of making the best use out of existing facilities and the natural winter sport environment.

The Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain will form the backdrop for Granada 2015 and have hosted numerous international skiing and snowboarding events ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain will form the backdrop for Granada 2015 and have hosted numerous international skiing and snowboarding events ©AFP/Getty Images

He dismissed suggestions the cost of hosting the Winter Universiade is a major concern for organisers and, despite the current poor state of Spain's economy, which saw figures published earlier this year indicating over 56 per cent of under-25's in the country are unemployed, Espa claimed the Government has made a special case for the 2015 Universiade.

"Of course that is a problem [the economy]," he said.

"It is very difficult in the current situation to organise everything.

"But, we have a good tool because the Government gave us consideration as an exceptional event and an event of public interest.

"The companies who will sponsor us in Granada can recover a lot of the funding in taxes that they spend.

"This is a good way to incorporate private money into the organisation of the Games."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related Stories
October 2013: 
Granada 2015 launches official mascot design competition