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Creating legacy: The Leuven approach

The World Cycling Championships celebrated their centenary in 2022. Of course, you have to celebrate such a jubilee edition in a special place. That’s why the entire cycling event was travelling to Flanders, the birthplace of the sport. The races took place throughout the region: the time trials in the fashionable coastal town of Knokke-Heist and the historic art city of Bruges; the road race leads from the metropolis and global port of Antwerp to Leuven, one of the world’s oldest university cities.


The role of government in organizing such a global event is crucial. Not only to ensure that everything goes well, but also to reap the benefits afterwards. After all, such an event is the ideal opportunity to create legacy – just as it is with your organization’s conference. So, how are local authorities tackling this challenge? Cindy Winters, the City of Leuven’s Director of Sports, explains how the World Championships should create an enduring positive impact for the city and its inhabitants.

Which areas do you want to create an impact in?

“Firstly, we asked ourselves what social impact we wanted to create with the World Cycling Championships. In collaboration with KU Leuven and Faber, the faculty of movement and rehabilitation sciences, we have defined five areas.

The first category is top sport as a whole. How successful are the World Championships in terms of sporting achievements?

But we don’t just have top athletes in mind; it’s also about the public, because the World Championships provides a great fan experience. And that applies to both our own residents and the people outside the city, who come to Leuven to enjoy the event.


Cindy Winters

Cindy Winters

Non-athletes get involved too

The second criterion is the recreational aspect. To what extent have we succeeded in involving both athletes and non-athletes in the event? We measure the participation of both groups in the various activities in the run-up to and during the World Cup events.

Not only do we want to measure and increase participation, but also the experience of the participants will be mapped out and taken into account in future recreational sports policy.


Tour of Flanders

For the third pillar, we looked beyond sport and sports activities to focus on local communities. How can we involve neighbourhood activities, clubs, local hospitality, and schools in the event? For example, we organize cycling competitions between clubs and associations, or have different neighbourhoods set up their own supporters’ club for their favourite rider. We asked school pupils to design a cycling jersey. Schools with a link to tourism and horeca help to organize the World Championships.

The fourth pillar is the promotion of tourism. After all, we want to reach a wider audience than just sports fans. For example, we have placed a work of art at the Hertogen site: The Velodrome, a wooden bicycle track designed by two artists. This artwork is part of a participation project to stimulate the development of the neighbourhood. Later, the city’s new arts centre will be built on this site.

The fifth aspect is the activation of non-athletes. We do this by involving them as volunteers in the peripheral activities. For example, during neighbourhood activities, we hold a “World Championships for dummies”, which involves an A to Z of cycling, explaining what it is all about. We also organize themed quiz nights to get people excited about cycling. Schools are putting an extra focus on cycling skills. The neighbourhood health centres were all given a bicycle for getting around their neighbourhood. The hospitality industry gets involved, too. Artists make window drawings for cafés and restaurants located along the course. Of course, we love getting non-athletes moving, but we also just want to involve people in the World Championships. This is how we encourage meetings between people.”

Follow-up is crucial

“Whether the World Championships is a success will be assessed against these five areas. However ambitious the objectives are, we want to follow them strictly. That’s why we have taken baseline measurements, in order to be able to assess the results using new measurements taken afterwards. We are also conducting an overarching study about the social impact across Flanders,


The Velodrome by artists Elke Thuy and Bruno Herzeele is a convivial family meeting place, intended for cultural, sporting, and social activities

Cycling is coming home

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