Re-inventing the city through Sport

Sport as a major cultural force and a catalyst for urban and social development.

Throughout time, sport has played a vital role in the development of mankind and our environment. The concept of sport as we know it today, has its origins in Ancient Olympia where the first principles of ‘Olympism’ were devised. ‘Olympism’ was a philosophy encouraging the harmonious development of physical, moral, intellectual, cultural and artistic qualities of man. ‘Olympism’ was achieved by taking part in a combination of sport, art, educational and cultural activities. It was celebrated through the Olympic Games – a festival involving athletes, scholars and artists from a varied cultural fields.

Since then, sport has travelled far across time and cultures. From the quiet hills of Ancient Olympia to the state-of-the-art facilities in the centres of major urban developments, sport continues to change our internal and external landscape, affecting the ways in which our bodies and minds develop, and altering the spaces we inhabit.

So what role does sport play today in the ever-changing landscape of human activity?

Today, in a fragile global economy, sport is the one industry which continues to grow exponentially. Major events for the first time in history are being held in developing countries; emerging economies are reshaping their cities using sport as a catalyst for change and established urban environments are using sport to regenerate redundant areas of their ever changing habitats.

DesignSport offers a glimpse at the extraordinary phenomenon that is sport in the development of urban environments through examples of its work in Arabia, India and Europe.

Samantha Cotterell

The exibition material also featured two Filmsport videos

“Bringing Qatar to life!”

“Bringing Qatar to life!”

This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue

For the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, Filmsport produced the bid video and Designsport is designing the overlay. Together, they talk to Host City.

Designsport is a specialist overlay design firm set up by the Australian architect Samantha Cotterell. With headquarters in Qatar and Australia, the company works on the world’s biggest events.

The next sporting event to capture the world’s attention will be the Doha 2011 AFC Asian Cup in January, which Designsport has been involved in from the bid stage when Samantha Cotterell was approached by the Qatar Football Association to be the bid architect, art director and to produce a video for the bid.

The new company that resulted from the contract, Filmsport, is operated from Italy by the film producer and director Marcus Cotterell. He says: “Filmsport and Designsport’s work consists essentially in turning ideas into reality. Filmsport in some way embodies the Designsport philosophy of ‘every dream has a design’ for it is an in-house project and therefore one of our own creative dreams. Filmsport is also the marketing and communication department of Designsport.”

“There are a lot of similarities between sport and art, such as dreams, discipline, motivation and determination; and individual and collective performance, which are spectacular, theatrical, full of drama and pathos that accompany the rise and fall of legends and nations. Filmsport offers the original perspective of ‘sport as an art form’.”

Video is a powerful communication tool that has become an important focus of major event bids. Bid videos target a very specific audience of decision makers. Through the use of powerful imagery and sound, a video offers the all-stimulating ‘wow’ effect to showcase their cause, to reveal how the nation feels: how important is that event to them?”

Winning the Asian Football Cup

Filmsport’s bid video helped the Qatar Football Association to win the right to host the 2011 Asian Football Cup in Doha. Although this is the second biggest football event in the world, there was not a huge budget for the bid video. Marcus Cotterell says: “Sporting authorities are not necessarily accustomed to the ins and outs of communication technology or video production, and therefore their bid file budgets may not reflect the true costs of major audio/visual production.”

However, today’s technology makes it possible to produce spectacular first class results. Filmsport was responsible for the entire concept and production of the video. “They wanted to put together the elements of the tradition of the country with the fact that they are a very powerful, modern and fast moving nation. So I invented this little story between the two generations, a grandfather that takes a little boy to train. It’s all based on one single moment of the penalty.”

The main pressure on the project was time. “To develop seconds sometimes takes two or three weeks. I had 11 days to post-produce that video. It’s a huge amount of work to do in such a short time – the music, the editing, the 3D and the special effects.”

After the success of the bid video, Filmsport was asked to produce a promotional video and logo animation for the 2011 Asian Football Cup. “They called us to do the 3D logo animation and just recently we were called back to do the final draw event. It’s an ongoing relationship and that’s the most satisfying part.”

Designsport is providing overlay for the 2011 Asian Football Cup. An exciting feature of this project is the fan zone, parts of which will be activated during the 2010 World Cup. Samantha Cotterell says: “There will be an exciting programme for the community and sports lovers alike to join in the flavour of the sport and Asian cultures. The programme is of course a secret. Nothing like that has been done in the Arab region before.”

As with the bid video, the biggest pressure on the overlay project is time. “The organising committee did not bring in overlay early enough. The only saving element in this is that we know all the venues because we’ve done events in them before and I have a good overlay team who have also worked on these stadia with me before,” she says.

Aiming for the World Cup

The month before the Asian Football Cup, FIFA will make its decision on whether to award Qatar the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup. Samantha says: “FIFA will be watching the organisation of our Asian Cup very closely. We are not designing just for the event itself; we are conscious that what we are designing is part of Qatar’s opportunities to showcase its abilities to successfully host major events.”

As the rest of the world struggles to recover from financial meltdown, Qatar is looking like an attractive host. “Suddenly, major international sporting bodies are looking towards Qatar and its die-hard ambition to become the sporting nation of the Middle East, as it has the resources few other countries now have. It looks as if the wave may be rolling in for Qatar and that it will finally be offered the attention it deserves,” she says.

Another strength is Qatar’s self belief. Marcus says: “You breathe a very different feeling there, a national sense of pride. There’s a huge unity and they all work towards this, they believe in it and they know they are going to get there. They are feeling ready to invite the world and they want to put Qatar on the map. That’s the key – how badly do you want it? From Qatar’s point of view, they are incredibly determined and they focus a lot on giving a vision to this determination.”

Another strong contender for the 2022 and 2018 World Cups is the Cotterell’s home nation. Marcus sees similarities in Australia’s bid to Qatar’s. He says: “They are both countries that put a lot of emphasis on their infrastructure, in which they are world leaders. They are very strong candidates because they invest heavily in sport; they are safe countries and they can offer a vision for the future.”

Samantha Cotterell thinks it is time Australia hosted another megaevent. “Australia would just be a fantastic place to have a World Cup. Australia is a great sporting nation and football has become a very popular sport, bringing it from being the ‘immigrant’s sport’ to now a reason for national pride. Australia, with its natural beauty and safe environs, would provide the perfect stage for a great personal and sporting experience for the global football community. We did the Sydney Olympics so well that the World Cup would be in very good hands.”

Overlay: what’s it all about?

Overlay: what’s it all about?
Samantha Cotterell of Designsport talks to Host City about the challenges of an exciting profession and the misnomer that is the word “overlay”

Overlay is often understood to refer to everything that would fall out if you picked up an Olympic venue, turned it upside down and shook it – basically, it is everything that is not permanent.“But it shouldn’t be that way,” says Samantha Cotterell of Designsport. “If, when you turned the venue upside down, a lot of things fell out, it would mean that the event has not had the right expert input from the beginning and most likely the event is costing a lot of money.”

Why is overlay so important?

Cotterell points out that the very word “overlay” undermines the task at hand, which is a complex exercise in sport event architecture that extends far beyond the final cosmetic touch. The word “overlay” suggests a lightweight veil that is temporarily laid over a complex network of concrete and steel in order to host an event. But this veil is only the final stage of years of planning, designing and building an event.Overlay – or, as Cotterell advocates that it should be called, sport event architecture – is an integral part of the planning of any event, from inception to delivery, from initial masterplanning at bid stage through every phase of preparation, delivery, decommission and, hopefully, legacy. But there is a lack of awareness about overlays, the skills of overlay architects and the role they play in the game.One of the most pertinent issues facing host cities is how to ensure meaningful and sustainable use of the facilities during and after a large scale multisport event. Cotterell says: “Typically, Olympic Games and similar scale events assist in improving infrastructure, developing industrial zones and regenerating lesser quality urban areas. However, in addition to this positive impact, enormous amounts of money are spent on designing, building and procuring facilities that are not successfully integrated into a community or national programme following the event. Experienced sport event architects are the key to resolving this issue.”

Who are sport event architects?

Sport event architects understand major event operations, sport specific operations and architecture. It is these three elements that, combined, fulfil the requirements of major stakeholders to create the excitement of an event.When a city commissions the building of a sport venue or precinct, professional architects are typically approached. The architects apply their skills and they design according to the basic rules and regulations set out by building codes and sporting federation’s technical handbooks. However, the operational knowledge required to stage an event is often missing.An architect has the tools of the trade to understand masterplanning, design and structures. But an overlay architect also understands the industry of sport, has the working knowledge of major stakeholder requirements and understands the nature of the beast that is a multisport event.“Designing a stadium or the masterplan for a host city without the having major event expertise is like designing a car without understanding the engine, the concepts of aerodynamics, or even the role of the driver. When the end users come to operate the facility they find it is not operational – sport event architects are the professionals who have the required knowledge to make this car a fine tuned vehicle able to race in any conditions” says Cotterell.Overlay design is a specialised field which is not approached through study but rather through experience. It is a complex interweaving of disciplines that must be understood, developed and implemented from project inception through to the event itself.When developed as a profession, overlay architecture becomes a series of exhilarating challenges that vary from the creative to the business and from the social to the pragmatic. “When training my staff on an event, I always remind them that while we are sitting in the studio designing, the athletes are out there training for that one chance to make a difference. We are responsible for designing the atmosphere and arena that will host this once-in-alifetime opportunity.” says Cotterell.“Normally architects design static buildings, hand over the keys to the client and move onto the next project.
As sport event architects, however, we live our buildings: we work next to and with the main clients; we design as they evolve, we build as they train and then we host the event and witness our building come alive. When all have gone home, we dismantle our buildings and restore the stadia to the city.”

When to involve sport event architects?

“Overlay design is too often reactive rather than proactive,” says Cotterell. “The stadia are often designed and built without multisport event expertise, which leads to extensive redesign of base buildings and major temporary works. In Doha and Athens, we had some major challenges and had to modify whole sections of master plans and stadia in order to accommodate the operations and additional facilities required to host the Doha 2006 Asian Games and the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.“In Delhi, on the other hand, many venues had initial advice from experts and hence have been well designed, minimising the need for temporary structures. It is encouraging to see this as it ensures less money is spent on the temporary aspects. In such circumstances the overlay designer’s task is more focused on improving projects by redefining overlay, devising new systems and promoting sustainable solutions.”An overlay architect is equipped to advise a bidding nation on how to plan the most appropriate events and can bring expertise on how to carry the project through to delivery. When a city is designing large scale sporting facilities, overlay architects can advise on requirements and analyse potential events to be hosted so that the facility is designed in an intelligent, sustainable and exciting manner.During the planning and design of Dubai Sports City, key members of Designsport were part of a team who were called upon to design hypothetical overlays for the use of the stadia in event mode. These included World Championships in a variety of sports and an Asian Games.“Our overlays went to inform a revision of the masterplan and a redesign of some crucial aspects of the stadium buildings. The architects were brought back to the drawing board to work together as a team to ensure the new multimillion dollar facilities could accommodate the intended and further proposed events.”Sport federations, major stakeholders and main client bodies such as event owners should involve sport event architects at all times, says Cotterell. “International sport federations and event owners generally lack the technical support that is requested of them when an organising committee asks for assistance in planning the specifics of the event. Some international federations are stronger than others and provide highly sophisticated information to support the design and build of both permanent and temporary facilities; however, mostly this expertise is lacking. An experienced overlay architect is well positioned to fill this role and support the sport federations.”Overlay architecture is certainly a profession like no other. “The process is incredibly dynamic and exciting and there is a great sense of achievement and completion,” Cotterell says.

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