Sport: The Changing Urban Landscape

“Ever since I arrived in Buenos Aires, I’ve been looking at walls to see where I can climb.” Charlotte Durif is a sport climbing champion from France and joined a panel today at the Olympism in Action Forum here on the increasing urbanisation of sport. In Durif’s discipline, participation isn’t limited by specific venue or equipment requirements; you just need a wall, and cities have a lot of walls. It is the same with parkour, a sport that grew out of military obstacle course training. In parkour communities, there is a “roof culture”.  

In 1950, 30 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities. Today, that number is 55 per cent, and according to the UN’s latest projections, by 2050 it will be 68 per cent, with 90 per cent of the urban population growth between now and then happening in Asia and Africa. The topography of where people live is changing dramatically and, along with that, sport is changing.  

And the Olympic Movement is responding. At the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo in 2020, several sports that emerged from city landscapes will be included for the first time. And many will already be able to get a taster at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires kick-starting this weekend, with skateboarding, BMX freestyle, 3x3 basketball, sport climbing and breaking all on the programme of events.  
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Increased urbanisation means increased competition for scarce resources, but perhaps also a democratisation of who can participate in different activities and sports and new opportunities for self-expression. Marginalised groups who don’t usually have good access to sport might see more options available. After all, there are walls everywhere.  

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