Study trip leading to innovative ideas for sport and integration

Copenhagen: the unofficial capital of the IOC/IPC/IAKS awards. As many as six recent prize-winners were listed on the program of the trip that took 15 members of IAKS Switzerland to Denmark on June 15 and 16, 2016.

On arrival, Roger Gut, President of IAKS Switzerland, found himself wholeheartedly supported by Lars Baerentzen, departmental head at LOA Fonden (Danish Foundation for Culture and Sporting Infrastructures) in organizing the visits. Frequently, the architects or operators themselves guided the visitors through the facilities.

Despite morning water temperatures of 16 to 17 degrees, Kastrup coastal resort is very popular with bathers. The circular structure set in the middle of the sea has an almost mystical aura. Numerous recesses on the platform are an invitation to linger; there are steps leading to diving boards, timbered walls shielding bathers from the wind. The facility is all part of a newly designed beachscape stretching for a number of kilometers and dotted with cycling paths, bars, restaurants, playgrounds, a marina, and green dune landscape. Completing the facilities are barrier-free toilets, changing rooms, and access points to the sea.

The climbing hall Blocs & Walls is in a disused shipyard building. The 10-year lease entails a high risk. The idea of having lots of climbing options for a variety of proficiencies (including competitive) also allows space inside for people to meet and get together, a notion pursued by many of Copenhagen's sports facilities. LOA Fonden largely contributed to the funding of the facility and many of the staff have volunteered for the work.

On the way to Harbour Bath, the group passes by the very impressive construction site of the new waste incineration plant whose immense height will in future serve as a ski slope with brush carpeting and for other sporting attractions. Harbour Bath is an outdoor swiming pool and forms a part of the harbour basin. Following a fatal accident, the pool had to be temporarily closed and entirely fenced in. Another cause for headaches is algae growth in the non-swimmers' pool. The facility is next door to a residential area and frequently used by locals and schoolchildren.

With its meandering wood and concrete paths, the Kalvebod Waves leisure facility in the opposite harbour basin is a popular place to linger. Inside, there is a paddling pool, which adds a sporting touch to Kalvebod Waves; there are also possibilities for swimming. The new business premises on the shore now have their own new aqueous "front garden". Initially encountering considerable opposition during the project phase, the Danish mega bank at the rear is meanwhile the icing on the cake.

On the first day's tour we passed the new and impressive opera house designed by Henning Larsen to reach the former shipyard building that serves as an office for LOA Fonden. From Gut's point of view, the foundation is the motor and sponsor of all these sporting, leisure and meeting buildings and facilities which, in Swiss terms, appear virtually impossible. The projects are funded with sport pools money, with the emphasis being on special facilities and structures. The staff proactively assist the planners and owners in the development of their projects, all with the aim of developing outstanding facilities that best serve the interests of the general public.

Day 2 began with a guided tour of the Sjakket Youth Center, an old, out-of-use bus depot. The operator explained the idea behind this center located in a migrant area. The varied facilities include a small gymnasium, a room for physical exercises and boxing, a shared kitchen, other rooms for youngsters to spend their time in and get together, a music studio, Internet and game rooms, all with the aim of integrating the youngsters, with the involvement of their parents.

What specially impressed the travellers was Superkilen, an over one-kilometer long park for people to meet and exercise themselves. Three differently shaded areas offer their diverse users a colourful carpet with a variety of atmospheres and wide-ranging functions. The project serves to integrate all 57 nationalities living in the neighbourhood and making use of the facilities. There is barely any vandalism since the project has been created for the people by the people. Each nation has shared in the project in the form of items such as benches, equipment for playing, a barbecue or a table for games.

The thinking behind Gyngemosehallen, a new building in a residential area on the outskirts of the town, gave the visitors much to reflect about. The building with its gymnastics equipment, bodybuilding room, games room and physical exercise area is open to users from 5 to 24 h. Users are given an identity card and share responsibility for making sure that the facilities and equipment are properly used. During the day the facility is available to schools, after that by day visitors and in the evenings by clubs, etc. 

The exciting integration project by the name of StreetMekka is housed in an old industrial building which has been converted for such activities as street basketball, dancing, football and other street sports. StreetMekka's vision is to strengthen ties among youngsters at local and global level, prevent conflicts and integrate the socially disadvantaged. The idea is open-ended, new uses can be introduced. The facility is run by youngsters. Indicative of the vast interest the project has awakened is that United States Secretary of State John Kerry has dropped by.

The final stop of the tour was The Prism, a gym with an annex to old residential buildings and taking the form of a translucent structure. The polycarbonate panels contrast with the surrounding buildings albeit they do present thermal problems both in summer and winter.

 

The spectrum of facilities viewed reflects a potential in innovation and ingenuity outside the constraints of classical sport facilities. Certainly not all these ideas can be transplanted elsewhere, but they are nonetheless valuable in providing food for thought. In all, the study trip supplied fascinating insights into sports and integration and sparked lively discussions and fresh ideas among the participants.

Detailed reports plus maps and illustrations of the facilities can be found in the 'sb" magazine:

Kastrup Seebad (IOC/IAKS Award 2009 Bronze + IPC/IAKS Distinction) in "sb" 5/2009

Blocs & Walls (IOC/IAKS Award 2015 Bronze) in "sb" 5/2015

Harbour Bath (IPC/IAKS Distinction 2007) in "sb" 5/2007

Kalvebod Waves in sb 6/2013

Sjakket Youth Center (IOC/IAKS Award 2011 Silver) in "sb" 5/2011

Superkilen (IOC/IAKS Award 2013 Gold) in "sb" 5/2013

StreetMekka (IOC/IAKS Award 2013 Special Prize) in "sb" 5/2013