The dream that was crushed by power politics and a foolished rental agreement
November 18. 2019
A few months ago, Team Denmark published a press release stating “… that Team Denmark and the Sports Conferation of Denmark at a common board meeting decided to lift the vision of building a national elite sports center in Copenhagen to a comprehensive solution involving the whole country” and beyond ” … that Team Denmark establishes innovation centers in Aarhus, Odense, Aalborg and Copenhagen, that will cover all parts of Denmark. At the new innovation centers, coaches, athletes and researchers will be able to meet and develop new knowledge about nutrition, physiology. sports psychology, testing and other topics that can give athletes and coaches competitive advantages ”.
The decision is not least due to a big grant of DKK 100 million in autumn 2018 from the Novo Nordic Foundation to Team Denmark. The Novo Nordic Foundations’ press release states that “… DKK 50 million is a targeted establishment of state-of-the-art facilities to be used in connection with sports research, eg. altitude hotel, climate room and other training facilities, where the equipment provides the opportunity to monitor athletes’ performance during training and competitions. The appropriation for these special facilities is conditional on Team Denmark obtaining support from other foundations by the end of 2020 to establish a building that can accommodate the special facilities ”.
However, there is another explanation for why the dream of a national elite sports center in Copenhagen unfortunately only seems to become a building at the University of Copenhagen that can accommodate the special facilities. Anyone who has been involved in elite sports research at international level is fully aware that a grant of DKK 50 million does not do any wonders.
There were many reasons why Kjeld Rasmussen, Brøndby’s mayor from 1966 to 2005, has the record as Denmark’s longest-serving mayor. One of the main reasons was that Rasmussen was a very big fan of sports, which in particular Brøndby IF – one of Denmark’s most winning football clubs – has enjoyed for more than half a century. In addition, the Social Democratic mayor quickly realized that municipal investment in sports facilities and agreements with external partners could be the way to stable revenue in the budget of the municipality.
One of Rasmussen’s most “brilliant” rental agreements was signed with the Sports Conferation of Denmark (DIF) in the early 1970s, when Brøndby Municipality and DIF entered into a rental agreement for “The House of Sports” on a field in the Western part of the Copenhagen. The building, which was opened in 1974, was the property of DIF, but located on a rented land that belongs to Brøndby Municipality and which can only be returned in the year 2060 – ie in 41 years. In addition, today’s “The House of Sports” has a loan that far exceeds the real market value of the facilities.
There are probably not many people who would describe “The House of Sports” as a visionary and sustainable sports facility with a strong focus on the wants and needs of athletes and coaches. And there are probably not many people who find the location of “The House of Sports” appropriate in relation to public transport. Furthermore, DIF has never succeeded in developing “The Sports House” for anything more than an administration building. These three factors were also the reasons why, in my opinion, the location of a national elite sports center in Brøndby would be as foolish as DIF’s rental agreement with Brøndby Municipality.
The dream of a national elite sports center in Denmark was first discussed at Team Denmark’s board meeting in late 2011. The example was similar centers in some of the world’s best sports nations with the size of Denmark: Australia, Norway and New Zealand, which with great success had gathered largely all the necessary resources in the common facilities: athletes, coaches, experts such as doctors, physiotherapists, dietitians, sports psychologists and not least researchers who were either employed at the Australian Institute of Sport and the University of Canberra (Australia), the Olympiatoppen and the Norwegian School of Sport in Oslo or High Performance Sport New Zealand and the University of Auckland in New Zealand – on a campus.
The vision and content of a national elite sports center was first discussed at a board meeting in Team Denmark in November 2011. At a board meeting in February 2013, I suggested to the board that Team Denmark should prepare an analysis with a cost of approx. DKK 1 million about a possible location of a national elite sports center, either at the Royal Arena in Ørestaden or at the Parken and Østerbro Stadium with the Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen within walking distance. This statement definitely did not go down well with the board and management of DIF, who in the days leading up to the board meeting was in close contact with all of Team Denmark’s board members. The consequence of the hectic activity by telephone of the chairman of DIF was a non-decision at Team Denmark’s board meeting. The decision about the national elite sport center was sent to “corner kick” and the meeting became one of the blackest chapters in Team Denmark’s history. From that moment, I also lost hope and belief in a national elite sports center in Copenhagen outside “The Sports House”.
For more than six years, Team Denmark and DIF have “worked on” the visions of a national elite sports center. The visions and contents of the vision is described in the report: “National Elite Sports Center in Denmark – Phase 2, February 2017). In addition, in 2017, DIF and Team Denmark hired a“project director”, who was to be a front figure in realizing the vision, objectives and strategies in the report. The “project director’s” contract has now stopped with the decision of DIF and Team Denmark to change the dream of a national elite sports center with all the functions and resources gathered has been “laid in the grave”. In my opinion, Denmark has no sporting or research potential or resources to build or develop 4 “innovation centers” in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg – unless the four municipalities and the four universities finance the vast majority of the financial resources for the centers.
Kjeld Rasmussen – the “King of the Brøndby Municipality” for several decades – was a very wise and action-oriented mayor, but I actually think he would be genuinely sorry that the lease agreement between DIF and Brøndby Municipality became an ever-present obstacle to the best solution for Denmark’s best athletes: A national elite sports center in Copenhagen – but outside Brøndby Municipality.