SPORTACCORD 2024 INSIGHTS: CityAccord success stories

SportAccord 2024, the world’s most influential sports industry gathering, was filled with soul-stirring moments – CityAccord was no exception!

The CityAccord ‘Active Travel, Sport and Making Cities More Civilised More Prosperous and Healthier’ session featured the UK and Copenhagen – both going through major transitions to foster long term health and well-being. Here are the highlights!

Initiating change

Chris Boardman MBE is synonymous with cycling in Great Britain – as an Olympic and World Champion with a glittering international cycling career, and a passionate campaigner now with a vital UK government mandate.

Boardman opened this special CityAccord session with the moment that changed his working life forever: “My youngest daughter asked ‘can we ride to the park?’. I said ‘no’.

“The park was 574 metres away. I didn’t feel I could keep my daughter safe for a journey of about three minutes – on our roads, with my background in the sport.

“So I started to campaign and I realised what a sturdy soapbox this is. Pick a crisis and this activity speaks to it. Cost of living – cheap way to get to work. We’re not spending money on oil. It is the fastest, cheapest way to take action on de-carbonisation. Health accessible to a population…it goes on.”

Boardman is now Commissioner of Active Travel England – the UK government’s executive agency responsible for making walking, wheeling and cycling the preferred choice for everyone to get around – and also Chair of Sport England, whose role is to build the foundations of a community sport system.

Forming a nation’s health

Boardman emphasised the key to creating emotional connections to effect real change.

“Active Travel England is part of the UK Department of Transport, whose job it is to get 50% of all journeys cycling or walking by 2030. I recently asked my team what does this really mean,” said Boardman.

“It’s 3.36 million more people active everyday. It’s 3.5 million fewer GP (doctor) visits. It’s 2 million fewer sick days. Then you start to realise how the wider impact of just moving around under your own steam forms a nation’s health.

“Importantly, we’re not selling the activity of cycling. We’re selling transport independence for our children. We’re selling the choice to unshackle parents from the school run.”

Copenhagen – the bike city

In stark contrast to the UK, and many countries around the world, Copenhagen has long had a ‘consensus across the political spectrum on being a bike city, on wanting the bike,” explained Tine Eriksen Green, Head of Major Events for the City of Copenhagen. “There is a continual political will.”

Fifty five per cent of Copenhageners now use their bike every day to school and work.

“In Copenhagen it is part of life, because it’s the fastest way, it’s convenient, it’s fun. It’s also why we need to constantly manage and evolve the city to make sure we link new districts with new bike trails, to constantly make it the fastest way,” underlined Eriksen.

Eriksen spotlighted the importance of moving in step with the community. “We don’t understand why people decide to move out of our beautiful city,” she smiled. “But if they do move to the suburbs, they now have a longer bike commute – we need to make sure they stay on their bike.”

E-bikes have been lent to people living further away from the city and bike-only ‘super cycle highways’ have been built – “so we’re actually linking the suburbs with the city centre. You get a short cut – the simplest and fastest route only for bikes.”

Matching events to a city’s DNA

CityAccord moderator David Eades highlighted SportAccord 2024’s ‘Power of Sport’ theme and the importance of hosting sports events: “Where do they fit in with this strategy on cycling? Do you tailor events to the bike, or bike to events?

“We look at events that match the DNA of our city and one of our most important values is being a bike city,” said Eriksen

In 2022, Denmark hosted the Grand Départ of the world’s greatest bike race, Tour De France, with huge success.

“The encouragement and the support we saw for the hosting of the Tour de France was immense – we did not get one complaint. Because we showed what we thought really matched our city.

“It’s really a matter of choosing it every day. The politicians choose it every day by prioritising budget. And we as the people choose it by doing it.”

Watch on replay – CityAccord ‘Active Travel, Sport and Making Cities More Civilised More Prosperous and Healthier’ session – featuring fantastic success stories and insightful statistics!