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Focus on sports infrastructure - challenges for the 2020s
For many years now, the state and requirements of the sports infrastructure in Germany have been the subject of discussion, usually revealing a considerable lack of modernization and a refurbishment backlog. And although we are seeing many new installations and successful modernizations in many places, unfortunately little is being done to change the overall problem. On the one hand, this is mainly due to the continuing lack of comprehensive subsidies and investments in refurbishments, but on the other hand, it is also due to the growing demands on sports facilities, which in turn, of course, require additional funding. Sports and political associations have been pointing out these shortcomings for a very long time. Now IAKS (International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities) Germany, the German Federal Institute of Sports Science (BISp), the German Association of Cities (DST), the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), and the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) have joined forces and organized the 1st Deutscher Sportstättentag (German Sports Facilities Conference) as part of the FSB trade fair on October 28, 2021. This joint campaign was intended to raise public awareness of the issue to a new level and lend weight to political demands in the long term. At the event, various presentations highlighted the challenges and opportunities of a future sports infrastructure, identified problems and presented innovations and ideas. In addition, a charter of demands jointly prepared by IAKS, DOSB, DStGB, and DST and addressed to politicians was presented and discussed in plenary. The paper lists six demands: a new "Golden Plan" by the federal government is to enable the provision of additional funding for sports infrastructure, a modern sports facility concept for the general population in the municipalities is to become the basis for such funding, cooperation between the federal government, the federal states, municipalities, and associations in the funding process is to be improved, integrated sports development planning is to be implemented throughout Germany, the Sports Facility Noise Protection Ordinance is to be revised in line with the spirit of the times, and a council of experts for sports facilities as well as fitness and exercise spaces is to be established with the federal government. (available for download at https://deutschland.iaks.sport/1-deutscher-sportstaettentag)
This list of demands is certainly expedient and identifies many measures that are urgently required to improve the sports infrastructure. However, it already became apparent at the Sports Facilities Conference that the requirements for a future sports infrastructure are even more diverse and that further aspects still need to be addressed. Subsequently, there were calls at the event in Cologne for the list of demands to be expanded in order to reflect the challenges facing the sports infrastructure of the future even more comprehensively and accurately. The 1st German Sports Facilities Conference was very well received and its significance was confirmed by the many focal points highlighted.
In order to once again highlight the challenges facing the sports infrastructure of the coming years – the 2020s – a number of issues will be briefly outlined below:
Sports- and activity-friendly cities
Urban populations are ever growing, and the coronavirus pandemic in particular has shown that a diverse sports infrastructure is vital for townspeople. Attractive sports facilities for all population groups that are open for public use and close to their homes are key elements of community life. These must be preserved despite infill development and additional sports opportunities must be provided.
Sport and physical activity in rural areas
In rural areas, too, it is essential to ensure a diverse sports infrastructure close to people' homes. The needs of the ageing population in particular must be taken into account, but at the same time attractive areas for younger people must be created in order to attract young people and families.
Climate, environment, sustainability
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing society as a whole in the coming decades. Sport itself strives to meet this challenge, so its infrastructure must also comply with new environmental and climate-friendly requirements. Key factors to be addressed are materials, energy efficiency, heating materials and construction methods. In addition, future EU legislation must also be taken into account in planning and maintenance. However, it is not only about climate protection, but also about protection from the climate – it must be possible for people to do sports even when the sun is beating down relentlessly or it is raining continuously.
Inclusion, demographics, and diversity
Our society is changing. It is getting older, more diverse and also more inclusive. It is important that sports facilities can be accessed and used by everyone (for more details, please refer to another article in this issue). There must be something for all age groups and all genders. Multi-purpose sports complexes where everyone can exercise together are particularly well suited for this purpose. In addition, physical activity will play an increasingly important role in everyday life when it comes to maintaining health, well-being and quality of life.
Informal and organized sports
Facilities for "standardized" organized sports are important on the one hand, and sports clubs need modern, attractive and safe sports facilities for their daily work, which is mostly done on a voluntary basis. This must also be ensured across the board in the future. On the other hand, however, there is a growing interest in individual, informal sports activities. The pandemic has given a big boost to self-organized sports. This development must also be reflected in the design of the sports infrastructure in public spaces. It is essential that sports facilities are versatile, can be used and accessed by all athletes and allow for a multitude of uses.
On the whole, the challenges facing the sports infrastructure are complex and diverse. It is therefore crucial to address all the points listed and certainly some additional points not mentioned here – in terms of planning, financing and maintenance. The list of demands already drawn up at the Sports Facilities Conference is certainly a good basis; with a few additions, it would be possible to adequately expand on the demands made on the sports infrastructure. In the end, we can only hope that politicians will adopt and implement these demands.