Holding sports events in a city is a big enough undertaking in itself, but Copenhagen is taking steps to ensure that the impact of the global gatherings it hosts continues to be felt long after they are over.
That’s why the Copenhagen Convention Bureau created the Copenhagen Legacy Lab, which was launched as a free-of-charge initiative in 2019 to help associations and local entities deliver a lasting legacy from events and congresses held in the Danish Capital.
The Legacy Lab follows a seven-step model to create positive long-term value from events and congresses, guided by a strategic process that takes into consideration the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and six main drivers for both economic growth and societal transformation. With events in particular, it examines long-term positive opportunities that can be accelerated on the back of them and are aligned with the needs of Copenhagen’s community.
Entities that can be involved in the collaboration include the organisation responsible for coordinating the event, the local host and destination, as well as local business and government stakeholders. All participants hold discussions prior to the event in order to agree on a shared aim that has the support of both the association and destination.
The overarching goal of a legacy process is to successfully use an event hosted in Copenhagen to deliver societal impact that meets the needs of the community, while also supporting the organising association’s overall purpose and strategic objectives. These can range from environmental aims, fostering business development, to potentially establishing health benefits for a specific demographic.
How the Legacy Lab brings together organisations across society
According to Kim Mejnert Frydensbjerg, the head of events at Wonderful Copenhagen, the Legacy Lab is particularly important because it helps to ensure that an event’s legacy plan is in place well in advance of its actual staging. After the event, an evaluation is carried out, with feedback provided to the organisers so they can continue working towards their individual targets.
“Legacy is before the event,” Frydensbjerg tells SportsPro. “When the doors closed, there’s no more work in the event. Then there could be some follow up, but the timeframe is until the event has finished.
“We can’t work on the event afterwards. There might be something we can work on, another project which will continue, but the power of the event is before and during, not after.
“So when we work with legacy, it’s very much before, during, and then afterwards it’s about evaluation. And if something lives on, we will of course look into it. But it’s the organisations who have been involved that will continue the work. Our work finishes with the event.”
While the Legacy Lab puts the onus on the event’s organisers and relevant stakeholders to come up with ideas for what they want to address during its staging, the programme does help widen the door for it to have a larger impact on society.
“It is a facilitator of how to do it,” Frydensbjerg continues. “And when it comes to sports organisations, hopefully, in the longer term, it will be interesting for them.
“It could be that they have a certain issue they want to work on. But also, when we have had an event, they can go to the next [event] and say, ‘Okay, we had this direct impact, but through other supporting activities, we actually affected all these kinds of things just because of our event’.
“Hopefully, it will be meaningful for the rights holder to get involved and say, ‘Okay, how can we work together with the city in a more meaningful way?’”
Typically, most event hosts focus on tourism and the associated economic benefits for the city and wider region. However, Copenhagen Legacy Lab also recognises that long-term relationships can be formed through hosting various events, which has the potential to have an even wider impact on society going forward.
“Our advantage is that we don’t represent the city itself,” Frydensbjerg says. “We are an organisation that works very closely together with the municipality, but we are not the city, so we can take a broader approach to legacy.
“When we’re talking about the city in terms of investing in events, normally it will be for tourism and exposure, and maybe the greater feeling of everybody [being] happy. But if the city can invest in an event which is attractive to business organisations working in Asia, for example, then the city doesn’t directly support the businesses, but they create a platform for business development.
“So in that way, it’s not direct support, but they make it attractive to do business in Copenhagen through the event. That’s our approach.”
How the Badminton World Championships led to new opportunities for senior citizens
One event that has benefitted from the expertise of the Legacy Lab was the recent 2023 Badminton World Championships, which the Badminton World Federation (BWF) brought to Copenhagen in late August.
A goal of the championships was to promote the sport to those aged 60 and above. This was based on the various physical and mental health benefits that people get from frequently playing racquet sports, which was something it was decided could have a potentially positive impact on Danish society as a whole.
“It was something we started to focus on after the bid,” says Jakob Kjeldgaard, manager of the Copenhagen Legacy Lab.
“There was already a focus on [supporting] senior [citizens] from the city of Copenhagen, but then we said we want to build on it.
“A common goal was to engage as many seniors as possible. Therefore, we decided to approach and involve senior organisations, to build on the existing efforts.
Copenhagen Legacy Lab extended an invitation of collaboration to Danske Seniorer (Danish Seniors), Badminton Denmark and DGI Copenhagen, an organisation that represents local sports clubs across the city.
A creative workshop was then arranged involving all three entities, with the aim of establishing new interdisciplinary collaborations and to map out initiatives that could be implemented before, during and after the BWF World Championships.
On the back of the workshop, it was decided that everyone involved would focus on the event’s volunteer programme so that new communities could later be established for seniors who chose to volunteer during the competition.
Danske Seniorer worked to promote the volunteering opportunities at the event before it began, using newsletters and local branches. About 30 members of the organisation chose to help out at the event. Meanwhile, Badminton Denmark and DGI Copenhagen established volunteer programmes that were suitable for seniors, taking into account factors such as working hours and physical health.
The idea of encouraging greater participation in senior badminton also emerged at the workshop. While a pre-tournament event could not be held as scheduled, Danske Seniorer is working with DGI Copenhagen to promote the sport among seniors now that the championships are over.
For Kjeldgaard, this was an example of how all three parties found common ground and could achieve individual targets while acting in unison on a sole initiative.
“Here is where we saw a sweet spot,” Kjeldgaard states. “That’s what we are trying to find, but we have to find compromises.
“There are also certain times where we have to say that’s probably not something that we would like to focus on, even though it could make sense.
“That’s really the difficult part – finding these angles or themes where we see potential for both the destination and the association, and also if you want to engage the stakeholders.”
Following the BWF World Championships, a volunteer survey revealed that 90 per cent of them enjoyed the volunteering opportunity. The majority also expressed that they enjoyed the social and communal aspects of the initiative, and all agreed they would be willing to volunteer again in the future.
The collaboration between Danske Seniorer, DGI Copenhagen and Badminton Denmark also proved fruitful because it led to all three organisations finding new programmes to implement jointly that aim to promote badminton to seniors.
Bringing together Danish and Asian businesses through a shared love of badminton
Before the BWF World Championships, Copenhagen Legacy Lab hosted a workshop in collaboration with Badminton Denmark where they wanted to present relevant business stakeholders to the possible opportunities of working with the event.
The Confederation of Danish Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and State of Green saw the opportunity to use the BWF World Championships as a lever to strengthen trade cooperation between Denmark and several Asian countries.
The reason for that was because Danish companies retain significant commercial interest in the Asian countries when it comes to exporting water solutions. On the other hand, water pollution is considered a major challenge for certain parts of Southeast Asia, creating opportunities for Danish businesses to bring their offering to the region.
As a result, the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and State of Green brought together a number of decision-makers from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines to visit Danish water suppliers and companies during the world championships. The quarter-finals were also the backdrop for a special VIP event that had been organised to crown the trip, with the goal of fusing badminton with business development.
“Of course you can invite a delegation any day, but the event is something extra and a shared interest that attracts the delegation even more,” Kjeldgaard says. “It’s just a good opportunity to use the platform for these things, also because sport can connect people and bring people together.”
Following the championships, Danish companies reported that the collaboration had helped them forge new international relationships, as well as providing invaluable insight into export barriers and potential customer needs. It is expected to have a positive impact on Danish exports, and those that participated reported their willingness to take part in similar initiatives related to future major events.
If the BWF World Championships were anything to go by, then the Copenhagen Legacy Lab only looks set to deliver more meaningful impact for other events in the years to come.