Home TAFISA Column: KC Sport & Physical Activity Netherlands CEO Bert van Oostveen

Column: KC Sport & Physical Activity Netherlands CEO Bert van Oostveen


A column by Bert van Oostveen, CEO of the Netherlands Center for Knowledge of Sport and Physical Activity – originally published in Dutch in the journal “Sport & Municipalities”

Discovering and crossing borders

For me, summer is a period of discovering borders and crossing them. And too often it gives me an insight into sport and exercise in the Netherlands.

In June, I was in Portorož, Slovenia – with a small Dutch delegation – for the world congress of TAFISA, the leading international organization for the promotion of sport and physical activity. “Sport for everyone in a changing world” is the theme, which of course fits very well into the new reality we have to face. Climate change, pandemics, inequalities and digitalization are just some of the global challenges that are changing people’s behavior and attitudes and forcing sports organizations to respond accordingly.

Portorož resolution: beautiful statement of ‘sport for all’

At the same time, ‘sport for all’ (actually I think our Dutch term ‘breedtesport’ is a strange word) also contributes to solutions. “Sport has proven to be an effective tool for building peaceful bridges between people, communities and nations,” reads a sentence from the Portorož resolution, announced at the Congress. The signatories undertake to contribute to the use of sport and physical activity in such a way as to create friendships and contribute to reconciliation and mediation.

If I were sitting in my office in Utrecht reading this, I might dismiss it as too pompous. But it feels different in the company of hundreds of participants from all over the world, from countries affected by conflicts, from countries with a large gap between rich and poor, from countries where there is almost no place for fun and sport. Then you know better what role sport and exercise can and should play on many levels. As the Netherlands, we can also support other countries in this by sharing Dutch knowledge and good examples (in English!). It is therefore a great idea to submit such a statement, which has also been signed by the Dutch members of NOC*NSF and our knowledge center. The full text can be found in Kennisbank Sport&Bewegen.

Fundamental right to sport

A few quotes from the conference that I have left that I could relate to the Dutch sports policy discussions. Dr Fiona Bull, head of the WHO Physical Activity Division, links sport and physical activity almost exclusively to health – which I consider too narrow an approach – but rightly mentions mental and social health in addition to physical health. Fortunately, mental health will receive more attention in Dutch sports policy in the coming years. And he rightly believes that the World Health Organization should give special support to countries that are not yet able to implement all these great evidence-based programs and projects.

Philippe Müller-Wirth, head of the sports section of UNESCO, mentions the fundamental right to sport and the fact that many governments and investors in other fields do not yet sufficiently appreciate the importance of sport and exercise. He points out that we need to share much more data, more concrete results and good examples to gain conviction. It’s not for nothing that I notice that ours SROI the theme of the social added value of sport and physical exercise is also attracting attention beyond the borders of the Netherlands. That’s why we translated it into English, such as Sustainable Sport Action Plan (Routekaart Duurzame Sportsector), for example. And who knows, maybe in a few years the Association for Physical Activity (Beweegalliantie) with its integrated mobility policy in all areas will become an internationally recognized example.

National day off for sports and exercise

But we can also be inspired in other ways. For example, Slovenia is the only country in Europe that has established a national sports day, always on the first day of the European Week of Sport. Good idea? Personally, I was very captivated by the story of the president of Richard Way of Sport for Life Canada, who contrasts the well-known pyramid model of talent development in a specific sport with a rectangular model where you focus on different sports and assume that everyone is moving throughout their lives, all the time gaining new sports experiences. Stories like this bring me back to the Netherlands and are helpful again as we work on the program for Motor Skills Week (November 7-11).

But of course I also had to explore some limits myself and climb steep hills on a racing bike near Portorož. Now I understand even better how Poga?ar became as good as he was in such a difficult riding environment. For now, I’ll stay with the Utrechtse Heuvelrug…

Bert van Oostveen, CEO of the Knowledge Center for Sport and Physical Activity in the Netherlands

PS During the TAFISA congress, my colleague Jacqueline Kronenburg was elected a member of the TAFISA board. Her candidacy was supported by the Ministry of Sport, NOC*NSF and the Association of Sport and Municipalities VSG; with the Dutch in strategic positions in Europe and internationally, we continue to explore and push the boundaries ourselves.

Bert van Oostveen

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