An international sporting and cultural festival which is staged every two years in a different city, the Winter Universiade - run by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) - is second only to the Olympic Games in terms of size and scope.
Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain, the Andalusian city of Granada is the primary host city of the 2015 games but lacks suitable infrastructure and conditions for all the events and so Slovakia has jumped in to fill the gap.
"We've already hosted the Universiade twice a long time ago and we wanted to show that we could do it again and show the people here in Slovakia that we could put on a nice event for young athletes," said Peter Hamaj, secretary general of the Winter Universiade.
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The Slovakian resort of Štrbské Pleso will host the ski jumping, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined competitions while biathlon takes place in the village of Osrblie.
The Winter Universiade marks the fourth worldwide sports event organised in Slovakia and all the necessary facilities are all in place after a solid programme of refurbishment.
Danka Bartekova, event ambassador, said: "We are really looking forward to welcoming the athletes from all over the world and I think that the biggest benefit for the visitors will be the welcome and the hospitality of the Slovakian people."
Three-hundred and thirty student-athletes from 31 nations will take part in this first phase of the games, which runs until Saturday 1st February.
Training gets under way on Saturday 24th January ahead of the Opening Ceremony at 6pm while the competitions proper start on Sunday 25th January. Heavy fog is scheduled to give way to snowfall over the first weekend before the sun comes out on Monday despite the sub-zero temperatures.
The Slovakian programme runs until Sunday 1st February before focus shifts to the host city, Grenada, with a comprehensive programme of alpine skiing, snowboarding, curling, ice hockey, figure skating, synchronised skating and speed skating.
Ice hockey qualifying gets under way on Tuesday 3rd February ahead of the Granada Opening Ceremony, which comes after the first full day of events on Wednesday 4th February.
Eleven days of action in Granada runs through until Saturday 14th February with the men's and women's ski cross final bringing the Winter Universiade to a close on Valentine's Day.
A renowned sports city, Granada has recently hosted the European Basketball Championship and held the World Karate Championship in 1992. In 1996 the ski resort of Sierra Nevada organised the world alpine skiing championships, and it also hosted European and World Cup trials for alpine skiing, snowboarding and freestyle.
Embracing FISU's motto of 'Excellence in Mind and Body', the Winter Universiade incorporates educational and cultural aspects into eleven days of sports competitions, allowing university student-athletes worldwide to celebrate with the host city in a true spirit of friendship and sportsmanship.
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