Leuven, where this year's World Cycling Championships took place, has been awarded the title of Best European Sports City 2021.
The Flemish city already held the title of European Sports City, together with 12 other European cities, however, it has now been ranked as the best, based on the initiatives it took to boost sports in the city during the first nine months of 2021, as well as its sports policy.
"This is a reward for all the work we have done and shows that we are on the right track in terms of sports policy. In spite of the coronavirus crisis, we have already been able to make it a fantastic sports year," said Leuven's mayor Mohamed Ridouani.
The city hosted the World Cycling Championships in September, attracting hundreds of thousands of supporters for four days. In the run-up to the competition, the city organised various local activities, including an interactive countdown clock and the World Cup Family Day.
"But of course we earned this award not only when things were going well, but also through our many efforts in difficult times," councillor for sport, Johan Geleyns, stressed, referring to the fact that various events were cancelled earlier this year due to the pandemic.
"We coped with this by focusing on our monthly Strava challenges, which continue to be very successful, and with activities in the public domain such as the new Move Ribbon," he said.
However, the year is not over yet, and Leuven still has many initiatives and events in store, Geleyns said.
"In the next two months, there are still a few top events on the programme. This week, there is the Yonex Belgian International badminton tournament, in November there is the Belgian Championship of short track swimming and figure skating," he said.
"But also in the years to come, the people of Leuven can count on us to make Leuven the sportiest city in Europe," Geleyns concluded.
Every European city with between 25,000 and 499,999 inhabitants can apply to become a European Sporting City - those with more than 500,000 inhabitants can compete for the title of European Capital of Sport - after which every city that was awarded the title can compete to be named "the best."
All candidates have to submit a quarterly report throughout the year detailing what efforts they made to deserve the title.