On the spot

 Sofyan Mbarki

Vice-Mayor of Sports, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The City of Amsterdam will host the World Union of Olympic Cities 2023 Additional Trip.  The Union warmly thanks you for welcoming its Members. As a preview of the visit, what would you like to share with them at this stage?

Amsterdam is a city that excels in integrated and progressive concepts. We use the city as a stadium. The unique qualities of Amsterdam actually add something to elite sports events, increasing the social spin-off of these events. When you visit Amsterdam, we will be more than willing to tell you all about it!

Amsterdam is a true sport city and has developed a multifaceted sports policy that uses all advantages and natural resources of the city to promote and improve physical activity and sport. Could you say a few words about it? 

A good example is the way in which Amsterdam has embraced 3×3 basketball in a very accessible way. The sport has been built up in Amsterdam from the ground up, with 3×3 basketball even playing a role in the design of the city. A project to renovate schoolyards resulted in many new 3×3 courts. So many, that the city lost count after 125 courts… At the same time, the city and Topsport Amsterdam (our dedicated partner) helped this urban game to develop and helped talented players to grow. Indoor elite sports facilities were created (for example in the Velodrome). At the same time, even larger events were brought to Amsterdam and organized in a breathtaking way at ‘Museumplein’. Athletes were given the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of their own audience and thereby inspire 100,000 children! At the first appearance of 3×3 basketball at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Netherlands finished fifth!

Amsterdam hosted the 1928 Summer Olympic Games. Although it seems like a long time ago, the Olympic legacy is still present in the City, and is quite visible, thanks to the still-in-use historical Olympic stadium. How does the City build on this success and continue to activate its heritage?

General Douglas MacArthur – in 1928 the president of the American Olympic Committee – called the 1928 Games in Amsterdam: “A model for the future”. You can still see remains from 1928 all over the world. The traffic sign to indicate parking spaces, for example, was invented in 1928 in Amsterdam. In 1928, Amsterdam was already working with temporary facilities. For example, there was a temporary swimming pool right beside the Olympic Stadium that was ‘demolished’ immediately after the Games. Amsterdam 1928 also improved the position of women in sports; a value that is still cherished. The 1928 Olympic Games were privately funded. The Games were ‘big’, but not ‘megalomaniac’. That is how Amsterdam still organizes major elite sports events. The ‘human dimension’ will always be an important starting point.

Amsterdam also regularly hosts major sports events. How have these events contributed to the city’s development strategy and to the promotion of sport and physical activity for citizens?

For elite sports events in the Netherlands that are financed by the government, the social spin-off is an important indicator. A very important indicator, as Amsterdam is a melting pot with 180 different nationalities. The way in which Amsterdam organizes major elite sports events is always accompanied by grassroots sports ‘circles’ all around the main event, in which everyone can find something to be and remain active themselves. This concept was first rolled out in 2016 and was further perfected in 2017 (European Championships 3×3 basketball) and 2019 (World Cups 3×3 basketball). The main elite sports event attracts overall attention, the urban range of different types of sports around the main event attracts the interest of citizens to be active themselves.

What would you like the Union’s Members to return home with after their visit to Amsterdam (the first Summer Olympics Host City they will have ever visited on an additional trip), in terms of both memories and inspiration?   

Sports policy in Amsterdam is not (and will never be) about megalomaniacal spending. It’s all about big effects with limited resources. However, Amsterdam has chosen to invest in being a complete and liveable city which is not possible without optimizing the facilities for sports and physical activity. Amsterdam shows how a world city in a populous area can develop itself as a sports city with sports venues and enough room for physical activity. It is apparent everywhere in the neighborhoods, in the financial district, next to the offices, but also on the water and in the schools. Facilitating sports is basic in creating a vital and sports friendly city, whether it comes to elite sports or sports for all.