Monday afternoon, three full days into the competition here, World University Games officials couldn't account for nearly a third of the 96 countries scheduled to compete here.
Universiade officials had indicated that no fewer than 42 teams would be competing in men's basketball. When competition began last week, only 20 nations were entered, with one of the last-second no-shows being the Soviet Union.
The schedules were revised so many times at the last minute that fans and media weren't even aware what times events were starting. Once the events did get started, many weren't at all competitive. There were near shutouts in volleyball. The American and Canadian basketball teams won games by more than 100 points. Few world records have even been approached in seven full days of competition.
Where there wasn't confusion, there seemed to be mediocrity. One of Edmonton's more outspoken journalists took to calling these student games the "shame games." Others have been calling them the "B" games because so few nations have brought their best athletes here.
Other than a few performances by Soviet swimmers and gymnasts, these games have yet to produce memorable feats. But today, as competition in team sports move into the medal rounds, there is less scheduling confusion and closer competition.
Ed Zemrau, president of the Universiade's organizing committee, has heard the criticisms and thinks they are unjust.
"Originally, we had commitments from 96 countries," Zemrau said today. "We currently have 74 countries in competition. As of today, we have 3,500 athletes." (Monday morning, a Universiade spokesman said more than 4,000 athletes were already registered and living in the village.) "I can't understand those criticisms.
"There was a problem in completing the team schedules. We could have said, 'As of June 1, we'll accept no more, that's it.' But we decided not to do that. Our policy was to keep the door open until the last moment. The Soviets' withdrawing from basketball--that was a disappointment to us, no question. And their notice came at the last moment."
Some countries that had earlier committed to be here didn't even bother to notify Universiade that they weren't coming. For more than a week, more than 20 countries were unaccounted for. Turkey was one of the countries that pulled out at the last minute.
The Canadian embassy in Ankara sent word back to Edmonton, saying Turkey had changed its mind. Again.
Zemrau says most of the countries that pulled out are Third World nations that indeed committed, but then couldn't--for whatever reason--come up with funding to get here.
"I don't think there's ever been another international competition that's never spent a dollar to transport people," Zemrau said. "In 1978 (for the Commonwealth Games), Air Canada went to Africa to bring people back. Next year, Los Angeles is spending $6 million to ensure travel for nations that need it. We aren't spending anything, so that also had something to do with it."
Zemrau also answered those who are saying the World University Games are a minor league international affair. "I think that's bull," he said. "It's certainly not minor league.
"Would people call the Canadian Football League the minor league just because it isn't as good as the National Football League? This isn't the Olympics, but there certainly are world-class athletes. We're very happy with the swimming and gymnastics. And we had more than 8,000 people last night for a basketball game (between Canada and Yugoslavia).
"I haven't talked to one athlete--and I seek them out--who hasn't had compliments about these games. I don't care about these self-appointed VIPs who become disgruntled because their limo isn't there on time, so he criticizes everything else."