To counteract the detrimental effects of inactivity, physical activity must be given top priority in urban planning and development. Residents now have plenty of opportunities to stay active while taking advantage of the urban lifestyle thanks to the transformation of many cities into hubs of sporting venues and outdoor activity areas. In reality, urban development plans now acknowledge physical activity as a crucial component and intentionally and uniquely reshape cities to promote it. There have been constant changes in both sports and urban life over the last century, but there has yet to be much information on how these two aspects blend. However, we must keep placing a priority on physical activity in smart city development to make sure that our cities continue to be thriving.

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Ariel view of the Barcelona Football Club Stadium showcases urban landscape integrated sports facilities. _©

How can sports help cater for developing urban cities?

Urban sports facilities can help communities and cities grow, become more inclusive, and last longer. Due to their widespread appeal, sports facilities contribute to the social cohesion of neighbourhoods, preserving local populations and promoting participation in collective, social, and economic life. The majority of sports amenities are straightforward and reasonably priced, and they serve as a source of accurate identification and accessibility. These facilities improve neighbourhood attractiveness and may support regional economic growth. These initiatives and sporting venues, which are frequently well-received by the community, allow for continued communication between the government and civil society.

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Image of a sporting event taking place in the city of Amsterdam where individuals are actively participating._©

Modern methods of urban planning and development consider sports’ potential to improve the quality of life for locals, revitalize urban environments, transform communities, advance infrastructure, enhance cohesion and a sense of community, and spur economic growth. Government officials, professionals, and researchers frequently discuss how sports affect urban development. Numerous studies on the social, economic, and environmental effects of stadiums and events on host communities have been conducted in the educational field of sport management. However, the majority of researchers have not specifically focused on urban development when pursuing these topics.

Planning for cities and infrastructure

Three things led to the emergence of spontaneous, unpredicted, and informal urban sport: the rise of individualism, the need for flexibility (both in terms of game locations and schedules), and the fact that it boosts the economy. According to the French Ministry of Sport, 46% of sporting events take place outside of organised game venues, clubs, etc. Nearly half of humanity now resides in a town. People use the spaces they have to engage in activities like jogging, biking, and fitness that were previously only permitted on sports fields, roads, and gyms. These fresh areas of activity consist of:

Natural recreation areas like green spaces e.g., woods, parks, leisure centers, freely accessible sports devices such as local facilities which include sports grounds, skateboard parks, bowling pitches etc., and dedicated furniture like wall bars etc. Unequipped public spaces that were originally not designed for sports like streets or squares as well as street furniture.

Two significant challenges face public authorities. First, it’s the outdated sports equipment. Second, it’s important to secure sporting venues against theft and vandalism. Numerous public authorities implement cost-effective solutions, such as the installation of climbing frames, “speed” car trails, or free-access gym equipment for which no initial market research is required.

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Innovative urban design concepts can elevate sports infrastructure as shown in the above picture of a new sports centre based in Zaanstad, Netherlands_©

The planning of sporting events 

Events related to sports increase local commerce and economic activity. Marathons, urban trails, roller skate outings, and theme races are all fantastic ways to encourage the urban sport and turn busy streets into temporary sports fields. They also strengthen ties within the community!

Urban sport has gone digital. When they participate in sports, 44% of young adults between the ages of 16 and 25 bring their smartphones. Connected city residents are becoming more and more interested in urban sports due to the possibility of having shared their performances, receiving training online, and utilizing digital sports coaches. Many public agencies have chosen to ride this wave and have released their mobile apps! Some instances: The Sports City Tour mobile application in Geneva suggests sporting routes based on the user’s current location.

A smart city is generally meant to be a city capable of joining sustainability by integrating different elements, addressing infrastructure investments able to support economic expansion as well as the quality of life of communities, more meticulous management of natural resources, greater transparency, and increased participation in decision-making methods.”

Researchers demonstrate how closely related the fields of sport and urban development are and how researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines and academic subjects can all facilitate an understanding of how sport can both influence and be influenced by urban development. Urban planning, urban development, and urban governance all require the same advice. Collaborations between experts in sporting events and urban growth would advance both fields well into the 21st century.

Infrastructure for urban sporting events is essential for raising the standard of living in cities. It inspires physical activity, improves ties within the community, supports youth development, and supports the sustainability of the economy and environment. Cities encourage people to lead active lifestyles and engage in healthy activities by providing accessible sports venues and city parks. In addition to being physical spaces, these centres promote social interaction and a sense of community. Urban sports infrastructure is an important part of urban planning and development because it can promote tourism, urge economic development, and benefit the environment.

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Visuals showing sports infrastructure blend with the urban environment. _©


Sports and recreational facilities are becoming more and more important as urban populations grow. Cities and urban areas are implementing cutting-edge urban design strategies that meet the diverse needs of their residents to meet this demand. These techniques involve turning underutilised areas—like vacant lots and dilapidated structures—into new recreation areas. To promote physical activity among commuters, they are also incorporating sports facilities into transport systems, such as bike lanes and walking paths.

To make the most of their limited land resources, cities are also making use of vertical space by constructing multi-level sporting facilities like indoor climbing gyms. To encourage sustainability and provide residents with natural areas to enjoy, green spaces are also being integrated into urban sports infrastructure. Last but not least, technology is being used to improve connectivity and the user experience overall. Examples include mobile apps that let users book sports venues and monitor their fitness progress. Cities are developing more equitable and accessible spaces for their citizens to enjoy an active lifestyle thanks to these progressing urban sports infrastructure strategies.

Visual of a sports stadium showing flexibility and adaptability in urban infrastructure_©


(No date) (PDF) Sports and urban development: An introduction – researchgate. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2023). 

How to develop the urban sport by adapting the City Landscape (2018) Paysalia. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2023). 

Sustainable Cities and Communities (2020) Sport en Commun. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2023). 

Urban Planning & Infrastructures (2022a) smart cities & sport. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2023). 

Urban Planning & Infrastructures (2022b) smart cities & sport. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2023). 


Shreya is a Mumbai-based architect currently pursuing her Masters in Architectural History and Conservation at Oxford. A book lover and Potterhead, coming to Oxford was like a dream come true. With a passion for movies with stunning cinematography, like Woody Allen's Manhattan, listening to music, and capturing the beauty of charming facades, she brings a unique perspective to architecture. Keep an eye out for her fascinating explorations of architecture and the captivating stories that she uncovers.