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SportsPro Hackathon 2023: Three sustainable ideas for a 2036 Olympics in Copenhagen

Co-hosted by Wonderful Copenhagen, the third edition of the SportsPro Hackathon took place over 50 hours between 24th and 26th February. After 14 teams of students from around the world took on three unique challenges, SportsPro looks back on the winning concepts.

27 March 2023 Rory Jones

Daniel Rasmussen

90 students. 50 hours. 11 universities.

Those are the numbers behind the third edition of the SportsPro Hackathon, which saw contestants from around the world put forward solutions that could drive social, financial and environmental change in the sports industry, with a specific focus on the future of hosting major events.

For the 2023 instalment, which was held from 24th to 26th February and co-hosted by Wonderful Copenhagen, teams were once again tasked with developing ideas that fit within the triple bottom line framework of people, planet and profit. Students also had to ensure that their concepts aligned with the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

With three challenges to choose from, 14 teams from five different countries participated in the hackathon, which featured entries from the UK’s Bournemouth University, Sheffield Hallam University, Loughborough University, Leeds Beckett University, the University of Liverpool and the University of East London (UEL). 

The University College of Northern Denmark (UCN), Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), and The Hague University also entered teams in this year’s competition, with Columbia University and Adelphi University in the US completing the lineup.

The challenges 

The overarching theme that underpinned this year’s challenges was Copenhagen’s currently hypothetical bid to host the 2036 Olympic Games.  

The Danish capital has established itself as an attractive destination for sporting events in recent times, staging last year’s Grand Depart of the Tour de France and games during the Uefa Euro 2020 soccer tournament, as well as triathlon series Ironman and more recently SailGP’s Denmark Sail Grand Prix. Renowned for its unwavering commitment to sustainability and social inclusion, Copenhagen is also part of a joint Nordic bid to host the Uefa Women’s Euro in 2025. 

But the ambition doesn’t stop there. Last year Mia Nyegaard, Copenhagen’s culture and leisure city councilor, floated the idea of the city bidding for the 2036 Olympics. In an interview with Berlingske newspaper, she outlined her aim to stage “the cheapest, most sustainable and smallest” edition of the global gathering to date.  

So what better challenge for this year’s hackathon contestants to take on than to conceptualise what that event might look like?

The first challenge tasked teams with putting themselves in the shoes of an Olympic TOP sponsor and designing a brand-led campaign that would run during the Games. Among other things, the students had to outline how the initiative would be influenced by Copenhagen’s culture, what sustainable impact it would have, and how it would align with the company’s ESG goals.

For the second challenge, participants were asked to outline how hosting the Olympics would accelerate Copenhagen’s ecological plans and programmes, focusing on either energy, transport, emissions, procurement and resource use, waste and resource recovery, water and amenities, or venues and accommodation.

Finally, the third task challenged the students to devise a sustainable legacy programme for the Games, considering how initiatives piloted during the event could then be adapted and exported to developing nations in other parts of the world.  

The teams had approximately 46 hours to produce their concepts, during which they were able to lean on the advice of an esteemed group of mentors representing organisations such as Oracle, Ticketmaster and UK Sport, as well as Wasserman and EuroLeague Basketball.

They then presented their ideas to a judging panel comprising of Wonderful Copenhagen’s head of events Kim Frydensbjerg, Sport Positive Summit’s chief executive and founder Claire Poole, 5T Sports founder and managing partner Aileen McManamon, The Sustainability Report founder Matthew Campelli and professor Simon Chadwick of Skema Business School. 

The three challenge winners, whose ideas are profiled below, will now present their concepts at the tenth edition of SportsPro Live in April, when the judges will decide the overall Hackathon champion for 2023.

The Winners

Challenge one  

De Haagse 
University: The Hague 
Concept: Float with Purpose 
Team members: Anton Wesse, Coco Lopez Trienekens, Eirini Politi, Femke Kujas, Lilly Fischer, Michail Avdejev, Niklas Szelpal, Rafael Rodrigues Fazio 

‘The future is floating’, reads the slogan for the idea put forward by the winners of the first challenge, De Haagse, who pitched a campaign that would see TOP sponsor Airbnb create a floating city in Copenhagen for the 2036 Olympics. 

Titled ‘Float with Purpose’, De Haagse’s idea is to repurpose shipping containers to build 100 floating housing units that would have space for 7,200 beds. Why? To address Copenhagen’s housing shortage, with Copenhagen Economics forecasting that the city will require an additional 110,000 dwellings by 2035. 

The floating accommodation would host tourists during the Olympics, after which 95 of the units would be used across Denmark for social or student housing. The remaining five blocks would stay in Copenhagen and be made available for booking via the Airbnb platform. 

Crucial to the project’s success would be a supply partnership with Urban Rigger, which would oversee the construction of the housing. The sustainably-driven company specialises in converting shipping containers into houses to create affordable and eco-friendly accommodation. 

In terms of financial feasibility, De Haagse revealed that the project would be 3.5 times cheaper than building new hotels for 2036, in line with Copenhagen’s vision of delivering the most cost-efficient edition of the Games to date. Primarily funded by grants and subsidies from the municipality of Copenhagen and Danish government, the team set a budget of €200 million (US$215 million) for the first year, which it said would deliver net revenues of €51.5 million (US$55.5 million)  before the project breaks even in year ten.  

The team also believes that the idea satisfies seven of the UN’s SDGs, including affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production.

Campelli was impressed by the concept, which he lauded as a “really nice idea”, also describing it as a project that is “ambitious, creative and solves a huge problem if executed well”.

Challenge two  

Beck to the Future
University: Leeds Beckett 
Concept: Regeneration of the Mjolnerparken Estate 
Team members: Bronwyn Tagg, James Wiltshire, Muhammad Najmi Hamidin, Rory Gordon, Sean Christie 

Beck to the Future’s winning idea for the second challenge was a regeneration project for the Mojlnerparken Estate in Northern Copenhagen, which has been a mainstay on the city’s ‘ghetto list’ since 2010. The list features neighbourhoods deemed to have above average jobless and crime rates, lower than average educational attainment, and more than half of the population being first or second-generation immigrants.

The team revealed plans to redevelop the estate over a three to four-year period, replacing the current infrastructure with five carbon neutral apartment blocks. Of these, two blocks of 1,000 appartments would provide social housing for current tenants and other financially vulnerable locals. The other three blocks would initially accommodate athletes during the 2036 Olympics, before being used for student accommodation after the Games. 

The team believes the redevelopment would align with Copenhagen’s values by being carbon neutral, providing local community spaces and creating a circular economy through ‘ground floor’ businesses within the estate.

All told, the team anticipates that the total investment required would be between UK£228 million (US$279.44 million) and UK£326 million (US$399.54 million), while the group had also identified potential brands to partner with on the redevelopment based on those companies’ previous engagement in similar projects.

In terms of impact, the team believes the project would reduce unemployment rates in the area from 38 to 17 per cent and improve education rates from 29 to 55 per cent. Net operating income (NOI) of UK£18 million (US$22 million) would be reinvested into Sport Denmark and the student accommodation would deliver UK£16 million (US$19.6 million) in annual revenue, the team said. 

Construction would begin in 2026 and the team believes community regeneration would be “in full swing” by 2036.

Commenting on the idea, McManamon said: “[It was] very impressive that the team took the time to identify and understand a local issue and how an Olympics might catalyse solutions across multiple fronts and leave a generational legacy – possibly beyond.” 

Challenge three

Cup n’ Hagen 
University: Columbia University
Concept: Creating sustainable beverage consumption
Team members: Christina Kexin Chen, Daniel Manzi, Hernan Gonzalez Ramirez, Naoya Kanno, Pablo Aycart 

As the name suggests, Cup n’ Hagen’s proposition is focused on a reusable drinks cup that would be piloted in the buildup to and during the 2036 Olympics before expanding around the world.

Operating under the slogan ‘creating sustainable beverage consumption beyond sporting events’, the rewards-based system allows users to log each time they refill their bottle via the Cup n’ Hagen app, which would be paired up with their bottle through a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag to track each time it is refilled. Users would be charged for their beverages per amount refilled or could purchase a ‘daily pass’ within the app.

Reward points could be redeemed for everything from public transport tickets to access to local museums and history centres, as well as local team merchandise and discounts at local stores. The overall result would be a reduction in plastic consumption at the 2036 Olympics. 

As part of the team’s customer acquisition strategy, refill stations would be installed at venues and bottles would be sold as part of ticket packages. Eventually, the team envisions Cup n’ Hagen being available outside of Denmark, allowing sports fans to earn points at other venues around the world.

In the first phase of its product roadmap, the Columbia team plans to build the Cup n’ Hagen brand within Copenhagen. In the second phase, the product would expand into ‘Europe’s top sports venues’, while the third phase would see the company’s machinery redesigned to detect any bottle regardless of material, reducing the need for production and offsetting the potential for waste in the future. 

Cup n’ Hagen would require seed investment of US$5.2 million, US$300,000 of which would be committed to software development, with US$3 million going towards hard technology manufacturing, US$1.5 million to container production, and US$120,000 to RFID tag manufacturing. 

Despite the cost of getting the business up and running, the team projects a high upside to the investment, forecasting that the business would generate daily profits of US$1.7 million after the Olympics. 

This feature forms part of SportsPro’s Live Events Week, a week of coverage exploring how promoters and host destinations are bringing events to life, as well as how venue operators and their suppliers are navigating newfound economic pressures. Click here to access more exclusive content and sign up to the SportsPro Daily newsletter here to receive daily insights direct to your inbox.

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