Miriam Hamberg, the deputy mayor of Alkmaar talked about creating sporting facilities for a high profile event
The Dutch city of Alkmaar does not have much reason to expect to be known the world over. Even a reportedly invigorating cheese market has, it is safe to conclude, failed to carry Alkmaar’s name far beyond the Netherlands. Things could be looking up, though.
Earlier this year, the city won the bid to host the International Children’s Games in 2015. The Deputy Mayor of Alkmaar, Miriam Hamberg, was at the forefront of that effort to secure the rights to the competition.
This last week, Hamberg was in Bangalore at the invitation of Bangalore School Sports Foundation (BSSF) to help the city with its own ideas of conducting the ‘Children’s Olympics’ sometime in the near future.
Earlier this year in Windsor, Canada, during what was the 47th edition of the Games, it was announced that Alkmaar had beaten Jerusalem, Mexico City and Taipei to the honour of playing host to the 49th.
“They asked me why I wanted to host the 49th edition and not a landmark 50th,” Hamberg reveals. “Canada liberated the Netherlands during the Second World War in 1945 and 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary. I told them this would be the perfect celebration.”
Besides, she points out, the Games have a link of their own with the Second World War. The founder of the movement, Metod Clemenc, felt his own childhood had been destroyed by the War; the Games were his way of bringing young people together.
A lot of thought went into preparing Alkmaar’s bid, Hamberg says. “We had competition but what probably won it for us was that our sports facilities are almost of Olympic standard. We can have it all organized months before the deadline. There’s a lot of work to do but we will be ready – we have to remember that we’re not just hosting people physically, but also culturally.”
Is hosting children harder than hosting adults? “Yes, it’s a bigger responsibility but it’s also fun,” Hamberg says. “Children make friends in a day’s time. Those who took part as children 20 years ago still recall the good times they had. Something changes in your heart forever. You are exposed to different religions, languages and cultures – and yet sports teaches you that you are all the same. That is something special. So if you develop that respect for other people as kids, you will carry that with you into your adulthood. Sport unites people.”
An event like this, then, can lift a city’s image, Hamberg feels. “Your city will become a landmark on the map. The Games will not just be economically positive but they will be a great advertisement for good health and sport.”
Should a city like Bangalore take on a task this size“Every country has its issues but you need government, business-people, and citizens to be on board,” she says. “It will be good; you can see what sports can bring to your city.”