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ISCA staff embark on a “pilgrimage” back to our organisation’s “grassroots” at DGI Landdstævne

Photo: DGI.


ISCA staff are getting out of the office this week and going back to our organisation’s roots at the DGI Landsstævne in Aalborg, Denmark (which runs from 29 June-2 July). This international multisport festival is an important “pilgrimage” for us, as the International Sport and Culture Association was “born” out of this event 23 years ago.


In June 1994, coinciding with the start of the event in Svendborg, the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations (now DGI) held a meeting for management staff from 15 organisations. These ISCA pioneers ISCA gathered at Valdemar’s Castle on the island of Tåsinge and put forward their vision of an inclusive umbrella for sport and culture for all organisations. Their vision would soon become reality. On 10 February 1995, representatives of 28 national sport for all organisations from 23 countries officially established ISCA. The founding meeting took place in Copenhagen, Denmark.


It seems fitting that the first formal meeting about the creation of ISCA was connected with the DGI Landsstævne. Held since 1862 and with record numbers of participants in 1994 (41,500) and 1998 (45,000), Landsstævne was a booming example of what ISCA set out to celebrate and promote – the “joyful spirit” of participating in sport and cultural activities together.


ISCA’s guiding philosophy was based on these pioneers’ belief in the dynamic strength of cultural diversity, organisational pluralism and their desire to help individual citizens exercise their right to physical activity. It was underpinned by sociologist Henning Eichberg’s notion of a “third way of sports”, which sees mass participation sport not as something competitive, but as an intrinsic part of popular culture and civic movement.


A driving force behind the founding members’ first steps towards creating an association was that many grassroots sport organisations found themselves excluded from existing international sport structures, like the single sport federation structure, because of the “one country, one member rule”. The grassroots approach was also neglected by the international federations, whose primary focus was to standardise rules for international competitions. The founding members simply felt that the grassroots sport voice was missing internationally.


So did many other organisations when they heard about ISCA. By 1998, 42 members had joined the movement and by the new millennium, ISCA was well on its way to being an umbrella for 100 likeminded organisations.

Meet us at Landsstævne

We will be at DGI Landsstævne on Thursday and Friday, and you can meet us at the European Fitness Badge stand. If you are going to the event, you can experience over 400 events in 25 different sports from badminton to unicycling – and gymnastics of course! See the full programme here


And planning has already started for DGI Landsstævne in Svendborg in 2021!


By Rachel Payne, ISCA