Top 10 cities with the best sports facilities in Europe

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Sport is as old as humanity. By definition, it is a widespread and popular social phenomenon and an integral part of the culture in all the societies.

The most popular Latin proverb which has been used from the year 356, says “Mens sana in corpore sano” literally means “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. It expresses the theory that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well-being and shows how important doing sports is.

Sports originate from the first human activities such as hunting and fishing. By time, it developed through various forms, such as tournaments and duels which often served for entertaining the rich people who watched the poor ones fight.

Nowadays, sport is not just a game or entertainment. It serves for strengthening psychophysical abilities and the overall health, prevents diseases and raises energy level.

With the technology progress, the world population is becoming more and more static. Most of the jobs are now sitting-oriented, the use of computers and cell phones has increased dramatically and sports is now more relevant than ever.

Doing sports has huge benefits. Some of those are the decreased risk of heart diseases, diabetes to overweight and obesity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, with over 50% of overweight people in the WHO European Region. In EU, overweight affects 30-70% people, while obesity affects 10-30% of adults.

According to the TU Delft (Delft University of Technologies, the Netherlands) sports facilities and infrastructures is a relatively new area of research, which concerns the challenge to create optimal, yet affordable and sustainable facilities for athletes of all levels to train and compete in.

In 2019, Eurostat conducted a perception survey (103 cities participated in it) to found out in which European cities’ residents are the most satisfied ones with sports facilities such as sport fields and indoor sport halls. The city of Aalborg ranked first (45,20%).

According to the Danish Ministry of Culture (2009), the public sector in Denmark uses more than 400.000.000 euro on supporting sports facilities and more than 80 % of the funds used by Danish Municipalities in the area of sport is used directly for sports facilities. Therefore, in 2012, there were more than 3,600 registered sports facilities. In other words, Denmark has more sports facilities than public school and day-care institutions altogether.

There are many opportunities to do sports and other recreational activities in the city for all age groups. A lot of sports facilities in the city are run by non-profit organizations and volunteers. For example, Aalborg Streetmekka is one of the four facilities in Denmark which is operated by the NPO GAME and is supported by a number of foundations. This 2,500 square metres facility was once an old industrial building which has been converted into an asphalted street sports centre. The aim of Aalborg Streetmekka is to strengthen the sense of community between children and youngsters, no matter how old they are or what their cultural background is.

At the opening, Aalborg Streetmekka CEO Anja Lyngsø stated: “We try to reach those children who do not join sports associations and include them in a community, thereby getting them involved in more physical activity”. Only six months after the official opening, the facility had more than twice as many visitors as expected, which confirms the opinion how important it is to have such facilities in the city.

Zurich took the second place with 42,20%. The Swiss people are generally considered as very active and sport-loving with a lot of all year-round activities at their disposal. What is more, most sports facilities are easily reachable by public transport.

Zurich is home of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the highest governing body of association football. Letzigrund is Zurich’s venue for football matches, athletics and other sporting events. The city also has many swimming pools, sport clubs and gyms, for which some health insurances contribute towards membership fees.

Since 1995, Zurich is also hosting the biggest annual freestyle sporting event in Europe. All the disciplines take place in one single arena at freestyle.ch. This makes the event an international meeting point for fans, athletes and the sports industry. It is usually visited by more than 100,000 people and the event is transmitted on TV in more than 160 countries.

The third place is reserved for Glasgow (39,80%), the city which is worldwide known for the “rivalry which has become deeply embedded in the Scottish culture, the one between two most successful clubs – Celtic and Rangers. The city is home to Hampden Park, Scotland’s national football stadium, which officially holds the European record for attendance at a football match. In 1937, 149,547 visitors participated at Scotland versus England (3–1).

In 2003, Glasgow was named European Capital of Sport, while in 2014, it hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Besides football, Glasgow also has a great sports infrastructure for rugby, athletics, badminton and many others.

Helsinki got positioned on the fourth place (37,30%). The city manages approximately 70 sports halls or gyms. Those include 3 ice rinks, 4 swimming halls and 1 horseback riding stable.

Along with the cities Espoo and Vantaa, city of Helsinki is part of Ulkoliikunta.fi, a service that provides seasonal information on the usability and conditions of ski tracks, ice skating rinks and beaches. It also provides updated information on sports facilities so that potential users can determine which services are available and in what condition those are.

Cardiff concludes the top 5 cities with 35,10% of people who are very satisfied with sports facilities. The city hosted some of the most important sport events in the past years. Some of them are 2012 Olympics, 2015 Rugby World Cup, 2017 UEFA Champions League Final and the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race. Cardiff has world-class stadiums for rugby, football, cricket and athletics. It is also home to International Sports Village which offers an Olympic size swimming pool and an ice rink.

From 6th to 10th places are Antwerp with 35%, Groningen (34,70%), Ostrava (34,20%), Luxembourg (32,50%) and Wolfsburg (32,30%).

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the postponement and cancellation of many sporting competitions. Due to government restrictions, venues and stadiums have been left vacant for months, even years. This has severely impacted clubs and federations not just across Europe, but in the whole world. The consequences are mostly visible in the lower-tiers of competition events, where clubs do not have the relative safety net of media revenue. However, thanks to the financial support and loans from governments, sports industry is steadily getting back on track. (photo credit: macrovector/Freepik)