Beirut municipality, NGO GAME on hunt for sports facility space

Beirut municipality, NGO GAME on hunt for sports facility space
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Published February 7th, 2017 - 15:45 GMT via

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A delegation from Beirut's Municipality meet NGO GAME in Danish capital of Copenhagen (Photo: GAME)
A delegation from Beirut's Municipality meet NGO GAME in Danish capital of Copenhagen (Photo: GAME)

Beirut municipality is on the hunt for a space to house a public indoor youth sports facility after teaming up with Danish NGO GAME to engage children of all backgrounds across the capital in sports.

“There are good sports initiatives already in Beirut but the challenge is that a lot of youth don’t have access to them because they’re on the [other] side of the city or ... membership fees are too high,” Simon Prahm, co-founder and CEO of GAME, told The Daily Star Monday.

“We don’t want to compete with that, we want to add something new ... to lower the barriers to sports so we can get ... kids and young people engaged.”

GAME originated in Denmark but set up a Lebanon branch in 2007. It has since reached more than 10,000 children through weekly basketball, football, and dance activities aimed at creating lasting social change through youth-led street sports and culture.

Last week, Beirut Mayor Jamal Itani led a delegation to visit the Danish capital and toured a GAME indoor street sport facility in a former tram depot, serving as inspiration for the potential Beirut facility. The proposed site will serve the “Youth-led Street Sport For All” project detailed in a memorandum of understanding signed last year by the previous Beirut administration but recently reconfirmed by the new municipality.

“We’re always looking to increase the sports facilities in the capital,” Joseph Traboulsi, head of Beirut municipality’s Youth and Sports Council, said, noting that there were only two free public sports facilities in the city. “GAME [gave a] presentation about their activities ... and we’re interested in having such a public project in Beirut, where Beiruti children can do sports to take them away from fighting or negative activities.”

While an entrance fee of LL500 ($0.33) has been suggested to ensure accessibility, the current challenge is to find a space. According to Traboulsi, the municipality is looking at potential locations for several other public spaces for children in addition to the GAME project. While the NGO said an ideal site would be something similar to Mar Mikhael’s disused bus station, they are ready to be flexible to get the project running.

Prahm said they also hope to find a space that borders several areas to reach numerous communities. “It’s important to find out what the municipality has in mind because they know the city,” Prahm said. “We also have some experience in GAME and ... [if you] put facilities on the border between two or three different neighborhoods then you will see the kids from all three neighborhoods at activities.” GAME has been using outdoor public facilities since its start in Lebanon, but Prahm emphasized that having an indoor space would be beneficial for increasing attendance of girls. “In the summertime it’s not a problem getting girls to attend activities at 4 p.m. after school, but in the winter when it gets dark early ... it would be really good to have an indoor place that’s well lit and staffed so everyone feels safe.”

With 30 percent of the funding toward the project already sourced by GAME and the municipality on board to get the project running “in the near future,” finding a space is the next big step. “We think they should prioritize it,” Prahm said. “Because, you know, it’s the youth, it’s the future of the city and the country.”

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