Two prestigious titles in one month! After the title of European Capital of Innovation, Leuven may also call itself 'European City of Sport 2021'.
The city of Leuven received the liberating news that the efforts that have been made for many years to put Leuven on the map of sport will be rewarded with the title European City of Sports 2021. Every year, European cities can apply to become European Capital of Sport. To become a European City of Sports, a city must have between 25,000 and 499,999 inhabitants. From 500.000 inhabitants a city can compete for the title of European Capital of Sports.
"In May, we submitted our file to ACES Europe, the organization that awards the titles, in which we presented Leuven as a sports city," says alderman of sport Johan Geleyns. "Two weeks ago, we digitally defended our candidacy to the jury. It immediately became clear then that we had a great opportunity to win the title, because the jury was very enthusiastic about the way Leuven approaches its sports policy".
"Leuven is also a progressive city in terms of sports," adds Mayor Mohamed Ridouani. "We combine a large classic sports offer, where we have more swimming pools and sports halls per inhabitant than any other Belgian city, with a strong focus on sports innovation and cooperation. Our relationship with KU Leuven certainly plays an important role here".
However, it was still exciting to wait for the liberating news to finally arrive. "We are very happy and proud to have been awarded the title. We have been investing heavily in sports for years and those efforts are now being rewarded," says Johan Geleyns. "In the coming years, we will continue to invest 57 million euros in sports infrastructure. 54% of the people of Leuven sport at least once a week. That is the highest figure in Flanders. No less than 82% of them are satisfied with the sports facilities. This puts us in second place. We hope that, thanks to these efforts, we can get even more people in Leuven involved in sports and exercise".
Mayor Ridouani and Alderman Geleyns are already looking forward to the coming year: "We have been working for several months to make 2021 a great sporting year. We sincerely hope that the coronavirus will be contained by then and that we will be able to involve everyone in this story through various sporting activities. The absolute apotheosis should follow in September 2021, when the World cycling championships in Leuven will take place".
"I want to emphasize that we have become a European city of sports, because we strive to really get everyone involved in the Leuven sports story. Young and old, healthy and sick, seventh generation 'Leuvenaar' and newcomer. The story of Leuven, European sports city, is accessible and inclusive", says alderman Johan Geleyns. "This is not the end, but the beginning of something beautiful. For the first time, one 'sports city of the year' will be chosen from all the European sports cities of 2021. Ambitious as we are, we aim our arrows at that as well. So our hunger is not yet satisfied. We will give it a try," concludes alderman Johan Geleyns.