Case Study: Dutch Ambitions

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MEI's Rachael Church–Sanders examines how the Netherlands, or Holland, is positioning itself as an Olympic host of the future....

In 1928, Holland hosted the Games of the IX Olympiad in Amsterdam. It was an unforgettable event for the thousands of participating athletes and supporters, and it gave the countrys sports infrastructure, architecture and society a major boost. The Olympic Games remain an inspiration to our country and we dream of hosting them again, said HRH The Prince of Orange, heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. But before we even consider making a bid we first want to lay the foundations on which to build a far–reaching legacy. Our ambition is to take everything the Kingdom of the Netherlands has to offer and raise it to a higher level. The Netherlands has thus committed itself to some ambitious goals. He continued: We want to unite citizens of all ages and walks of life through sport. We want the people of the Netherlands to be fit and healthy. We want our country to be internationally renowned for hosting large–scale events. We want efficient infrastructure and a wide range of leisure facilities. And we want economic growth and social cohesion to go hand in hand. Each of these goals has been set down in The Netherlands 2028 Olympic Plan. This initiative by the countrys National Olympic Committee is widely supported – by government at all levels, enterprises of all sizes, social partners and institutions, sports federations and the public at large. Our ultimate goal is to host the Olympic Games, 100 years after they were held in Amsterdam, explained Sven Boelhouwer, project manager of sports at The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions. But we understand that goal is a long way away and we need time to get there. To reach that goal however we have implemented several plans and targets. The first phase for the country was/is the period 2010–16, with the aim being to become one of the top three sports event destinations in Europe during that time and attract several major events, as well as working on grassroots developments. (At the time of writing, Amsterdam was in sixth place according to Boelhouwer). The period 2016–20 will be about asking are we ready to do this bid? and if not, what are the gaps? If we are in a strong position by then, then we will make the decision to bid for the 2028 Olympic Games, he said. Boelhouwer explained why his countrys slogan in support of its sporting ambitions is Holland Moves rather than The Netherlands moves. We realise that it is possible to brand a country in a way that appeals to the media as well as to fans and visitors. Our branding was considered an important part of our initial plans and we chose Holland rather than The Netherlands as it is shorter, punchier and translates better in other languages, even though strictly speaking, Holland was originally part of The Netherlands rather than referring to the whole country. The Holland slogan, accompanied by a tulip logo has been embraced both by the national tourism bodies but also by the international business community according to Boelhouwer. And it helps with sport too. When it comes to sport we are doing alright, but we forget to tell the world. Branding Holland in this way is helping to spread the message globally that Holland is a top sports destination. Although a Dutch Olympic bidding city is yet to be chosen among the obvious candidates of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, The Hague and Utrecht – all sports hosts in their own right – it is Amsterdam that has to be the bookmakers favourite at the time of writing. Amsterdam ranks fifth on the list of most attractive European cities in which to set up a business. In its own, inequitable way, Amsterdam combines its characteristic and breathtakingly beautiful cultural heritage of canals, bridges and monumental buildings with a high level of innovative economic activity; numerous financial institutions thrive in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is always full of life. The city shines in the romantically illuminated water of the concentric canals at night, and in the glasses in the many restaurants and pubs, and especially during the major events with which this Dutch city celebrates life. In well over 700 years, Hollands capital city has developed into a tolerant metropolis with the greatest diversity of nationalities. Inhabitants of no fewer than 177 different nationalities are registered in the citys municipal records. Amsterdam is proud of its easy accessibility, its diversity and tolerance. Encompassing a relatively small surface area – it is possible to cycle across the whole of Amsterdam in 30 minutes – Amsterdam has a lot to offer, in particular an abundance of cultural and tourist attractions. Some 8. 3m visitors come to Amsterdam per year. Amsterdam has no fewer than 51 museums and the 10 largest of these attract 5. 2m visitors annually. Hollands Olympic Plan is very much attached to the ambitions of Amsterdam, said Henk Stokhof, director of the sports department that forms part of the City of Amsterdams department of social development. We share the same aims and are also using our Olympic plans as a catalyst to achieve other things. In 2008, the city council of Amsterdam endorsed the Sports Plan 2009–12. The central theme of this Sports Plan is to make every person in Amsterdam active from cradle to grave. The plan is a very ambitious combination of projects and aims. The progress of the plan is carefully monitored and measured, in order that changes may be made as required. Amsterdam endorses and supports the Olympic ambitions of Holland to once more welcome the Olympic Games in 2028. The national Olympic ambition seamlessly fits in with many aspects of the plans that Amsterdam is already carrying out. By 2016, the citys complete sports infrastructure should meet Olympic requirements and standards. Every square meter is extremely valuable, said Stokhof, and we want to make sure venues are in use all year round and can be utilised by the public. The Amsterdam Sports Plan has five mainstays, all with a nod towards legacy. With respect to top sports, the city invests considerably in the development of talent and in carefully building a track record in the organisation of appealing events. Moreover, this is a coherent approach, as development of talent and events organisation go hand in hand. Amsterdams Sports Plan is beneficial for the heroes of the future, continued Stokhof. Getting the necessary support is essential. Through support, people become enthusiastic, enthusiasm enhances performance, and good performance contributes to the support given. One of Hollands four Centres for Elite Sports and Education (CTOs) is located in Amsterdam. In the CTO programmes the heroes of the future are being educated. Their talents can flourish on the Amsterdam stages of international events; volleyball, rowing, swimming, soccer, baseball, basketball and squash are the spearheads at the CTO in Amsterdam. This way of thinking yields results, added Stokhof. In 2005 and 2008 the Amsterdam top performances were acknowledged as the city was elected Top Sports City of the Year. In 36 types of sport, Amsterdams efforts were considered most successful twice, making it the only city that was elected Hollands Top Sports City of the Year more than once. And hosting successful events in Amsterdam helps boost the pride and self–esteem of our citizens. After we have hosted a large event, people are happier and more likely to become inspired to become healthier which benefits both the city and nation as a whole. Ultimately, both Amsterdam and Holland understand that their plans will require a great deal of hard work, but they are confident that they will succeed. As HRH The Prince of Orange said: We must ensure that by 2016 our Olympic dream has brought about major changes in our country. Such changes are hugely valuable in their own right, but they are an absolute precondition for realising our Olympic ambitions. Actually hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games would be the ultimate reward, of course. But we are already experiencing the benefits of our Olympic dream. In that respect, the cornerstone of our legacy has already been laid.

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