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Lillehammer all-ages sporting event meets enthusiastic public response

Grandmother playing mini-golf with grandchildren

Photo: Bengt Fjeldbråten

Students and faculty from INN University collaborated on organizing a cross-generational sporting event in Lillehammer.

At the beginning of this fall semester, Lillehammer’s first ever Generation Games took place on a typical rainy Saturday. An all-ages sports happening, Generation Games are a concept developed by Dutchman Robbert Nesselaar (see fact box), and aim to provide an event in which family members of all ages can participate and enjoy together.

Both social and educational goals

It was organized as part of the Lillehammer Sports Week, in collaboration with different organizations, associations, Lillehammer municipality, and regional businesses. The Lillehammer event was the first of its kind in Norway, with Oslo joining with its own Games the following week.

The thought of bringing the Games to Lillehammer was conceived by Trine Løvold Syversen, formerly the head of the Sports Management programme at Lillehammer.

The aim of the Games was to serve both a social and educational goals, as INN University students were in charge of the organization and implementation of the event.

- There’s a pedagogical idea – our local students organize it. Our educational philosophy is to see theory and practice come together; it’s a ‘pracademic’ exercise for them. The core idea here is to incorporate practice into the studies, not only once all theory is in place, says Trine.

100 students divided into 19 groups with different responsibilities were in charge of the event – 30 tourism students, 30 sports management students, and 40 international students. Sports management students acted as group leaders, as they are familiar with the city, and have previous event organizing experience.

Heidi Bråten, programme director for the undergraduate sports studies at Lillehammer and lecturer at Hamar, has vast experience with adaptive physical activities – in particular, with adapting activities to different populations.

Heidi, who acted as the project leader, was in charge of logistics, the orchestration and management of all student groups, as well as assuring that all stations were adapted for all populations.

- Generation Games are ideal in this respect, she says. Grandkids can participate along with their grandparents. This all-ages sporting event offers a very unique experience.

An international network within sport management education

INN University is a part of an international network within sport management education, which includes institutions in the USA, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands. Visiting students from Rotterdam UAS – a formal partner of INN University – were key players in organizing the Lillehammer Games.

- International cooperation is very important for us, it enriches in terms of knowledge and experiences, and the very variety it offers, says Trine.

The participants were mostly local families, including grandparents along with their grandchildren, and families of three generations. Approximately 150 people participated, despite the weather, an impressive number for a relatively small place as Lillehammer.

Robbert Nesselaar, stresses that a key element of the event is voluntarism. - Many wonderful people, all around the world, play a role as volunteers, and put in so much energy and passion, he says. According to him, the Lillehammer Games were very much in this spirit.

- It’s a pleasure working together with staff and students of Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, he adds, along with noting that Lillehammer is a great location for a yearly edition of Generation Games.

- We hope and aim to make the Lillehammer Generation Games an annual event, say Trine and Heidi.

Other than Trine and Heidi, main contributors to the event were:

  • Eke Dompeling & Koen Both – international interns from Rotterdam UAS
  • Ida Stake – third year Sport Management student, acted as a key person in the event management as part of her internship.
  • Hans Holmengen – course coordinator for Event Management, in which Generation Games acted as supervised professional training.