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Leuven named European City of Sport for 2021
Leuven has been named a European City of Sport for 2021. The title is bestowed every year by Aces Europe, the European Capitals and Cities of Sport Federation.
Leuven was chosen for its number of sport facilities, its city-wide policies and the enthusiasm that its citizens show in taking part in physical activities. Not only does Leuven have the most public swimming pools and sport halls per capita than any other city in Belgium, 54% of residents work out or take part in some kind of sport at least once a week – the higher percentage in Flanders.
“Leuven is a progressive city when it comes to sport,” said mayor Mohamed Ridouani. “We offer a large choice of classic sport options in combination with innovation and co-operation. Our connection with KU Leuven plays an important role in this.”
Aces Europe awards several cities a year with the title of European City of Sport. This is reserved for cities with between 25,000 and 500,000 residents. Cities with more than 500,000 residents can vie for the single title of European Capital of Sport. Lisbon has been granted the title for 2021.
Five years ago, Antwerp was the European Capital of Sport and saw an increase of 10% in the number of people getting regular exercise. In 2018, Kortrijk was a European City of Sport, and in 2017 Ostend was honoured with the title.
Cities must apply to the title as well as for Aces other titles, such as European Region of Sport and European Town of Sport. Leuven submitted an application last spring and had to defend it earlier this month via a digital conference.
“We are incredibly happy and proud that we have been given the title,” says sport city councillor Johan Geleyns (pictured above). “We have invested heavily in sport options for years, and now this effort has been rewarded.”
While the title does not come with a monetary prize, according to Aces it acts as an encouragement for more people in a particular city to try out a sport. Cities generally launch special activities in support of the title. Leuven will do the same next year, as coronavirus measures allow, says Geleyns. The year will culminate in the Road Race World Championship, with Leuven hosting the finish line.
“We have been made a European City of Sport because we strive to get everyone involved in the story,” emphasises Geleyns. “Young, old, healthy and sick, seventh generation Leuvenaars and newcomers to the city. The story of Leuven, European City of Sport, is about accessibility and inclusivity.”
It’s been a good couple of years for Leuven in terms of getting Europe’s attention: Last month, it was named European Capital of Innovation and last year it was ranked number one in Belgium on the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor and nominated for a sustainable cities award.
Photo: Leuven’s annual Corrida of four, eight and 12 kilometres gets more than 5,000 people running right in the middle of the often sedentary Christmas holidays (c)Lokale Politie Leuven