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23 March 1998

Deree 1998 What is the WUDC

Debating and rhetoric have long been an integral part of student life at most universities around the world. As an activity which aims to stimulate the intellect, debate has however, a much wider appeal and attracts the attention of the general public. In most countries, public debates, whether formal or not, enjoy substantial attention from the media as well as extensive public participation.

Ancient Greek orators were the first debaters in recorded history, as they were the first to adopt a systematic manner of holding a formal discussion on topics of political interest.

It was in sixth century Athens, the birth place of democracy, were citizens created a method for organized exchange of opinions, that arguments became of grave significance.

Ancient Athenians would gather on the Hill of the Pnyx to decide on the issues of the day, or they would meet in the Agora to exchange ideas informally. Since direct representation was the cornerstone of the political system of the time, it was vital that people cultivated the skill of oratory. As a matter of fact, argumentative skills and rhetorical competence were viewed not only as valuable abilities, but also as distinguished talents. The debates between Themistocles and Aristides and the orations of Pericles and Demosthenes are indicative of the skills and the abilities of just a few of the prominent orators of the time.

Debate is an integral part of Greek life, and Athenians to this day, debate heatedly over political and other matters in the informal environment of the "kafeneio", the coffee shop, while their representatives debate in Parliament on current issues.

International debates between universities began in the years before the Second World War when student delegations from universities in Australia and North America would visit universities in Europe and practice their debating skills. It was not, however, until the beginning of the 1970s that this practice acquired a more structured character and the first intervarsity competitions took place.

The first major international debating competition between universities was the Trans-Atlantic University Speech Association Tournament which was held in London in 1976. University teams from the United States, Canada, England, and Scotland gathered to debate in English.

Two years later, in 1978, university teams from the United States, England, Scotland and New Zealand traveled to Melbourne and Sydney for a series of debating competitions.

This rapid growth throughout the 1970s prepared the ground for the first World Debating Championships, which was organized by the Glasgow University Union in January 1981.

Although brief, the history of the World Universities Debating Championships is rather impressive. World's, as it is informally known, has attracted a growing number of young people from all over the world to its annual assembly.

The World Universities Debating Championships is the largest non-athletic university-level competition in the world. Although the language of the debates is English, in the sixteen years World's has grown into a formidable international event, with the participation of more than 300 teams representing 230 colleges and universities from 35 countries.

In the 1987 Championships in Dublin, Ireland teams from France and Greece participated for the first time in the competition extending participation to non-English speaking countries and adding a multi-cultural dimension.

Since the first World's was held in Glasgow, Scotland in 1981, the tournament has been hosted by universities in England, Ireland, Australia and the United States. It has enjoyed the patronage of such prominent leaders as President Reagan, President Clinton, Prime Minister Major, Lady Thatcher, President Jacques Delors and Princess Anne of England, as well as representatives of the United Nations and the European Union.

The main aim of the World Universities Debating Championships is to promote the art of rhetoric and the skills of logic and argumentation on a multi-cultural and international level; to provide a forum of communication and understanding for young people by allowing them to exchange opinions and arguments and thus to increase global understanding and intercultural appreciation.

The choice of Athens to host the XVIII World Universities Debating Championships could not be more appropriate. The fact that the competition will take place in Greece is an important turning point, as this is the first time that it will be held in a non-English speaking country. It provides a unique opportunity for all participants to explore the roots of debate, visit the ancient sites where it originated and developed.

The XVIII World Universities Debating Championships, already under the patronage of the Municipality of Athens, will be the largest tournament in history with an expected participation of 350 teams from more than 40 countries on six continents. A priority for the XVIII World's Executive Organizing Committee is to invite participants from as many countries as possible, including newly-formed countries of the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, in order to enhance the Championships' international character and help create a truly global event.

Debates throughout the week of the Championships will be in the traditional parliamentary debate style with four teams in each round debating in English; two proposition and two opposition. Motions will be announced fifteen minutes prior to the start of each debate round, and they will generally address a specific issue, e.g. "This House would abolish capital punishment." Motions will also include general, philosophical, and humorous issues.

Debates during the preliminary rounds will be held at The American College of Greece in Aghia Paraskevi. The Championships Final will take place in the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) on January 5, 1998. The Final for the English as Second Language Competition will take place at the Old Parliament. Both venues, although quite different in style, constitute two of the finest halls in Athens and provide a magnificent setting for a spirited exchange of arguments

Taken from the 1998 WUDC website

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