Strasbourg, France | Wellbeing Cities Finalist 2021

May 7, 2021 — Projects & Programs

Strasbourg, France 

Wellbeing Cities Finalist 


Strasbourg is characterized by its cross-border, European and international dimensions that are at the core of its inclusive and multicultural nature. Because of its history and its geographical position, the city is at a crossroad of people and cultures. A long tradition of welcoming and integrating newcomers and visitors, and of being open to others, makes Strasbourg a hospitable city.

Population: 287,532

Mayor: Mrs Jeanne Barseghian 

Language: French

“When sport rhymes with hospitality! Through this initiative, Strasbourg wishes to send a message of hope to all refugees, showing that its territory is strongly committed to offering them hospitality, well-being and integration. This initiative is also a strong signal to our fellow citizens, as sport is a tool for sharing and universal exchange.”

  • Jeanne Barseghian, Strasbourg Mayor


Sport in favour of Inclusion and Citizenship for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Q. What challenge(s) related to wellbeing does your initiative or strategy seek to address?

A. Refugees and asylum seekers are strongly affected by a lack of access to public services, and may be subject to discrimination in their integration process. The reception and integration of these people are therefore key issues for Strasbourg in order to guarantee better social cohesion, more equal living conditions and wellbeing. 

Strasbourg is convinced that sport is a universal language that can significantly contribute to living together. Consequently, the city is committed to guaranteeing better access to sports for these groups, who can be more exposed to a lack of physical activity and health problems. Investing in sport allows exchanges between refugees and the local residents and thus helps to resolve tensions linked to social mixing through intercultural dialogue and understanding of the social codes of the society of residence.

Q. How does the initiative respond to the challenge(s) identified?

A. The “Sport in Favor of Inclusion and Citizenship for Refugees and Asylum Seekers” program aims to support target groups individually and collectively by responding in an innovative and participative way to the challenge of integration. 

Beneficiaries are refugees and asylum seekers, supported by the local organisations in charge of outreach and solidarity in Strasbourg.

The whole approach participates in:

  • Promoting physical and sports activity by the implementation of concrete actions: learning to swim, cycling or practising a gymnastics activity. 
  • Accompanying beneficiaries towards existing schemes (Health sport on prescription scheme, grants scheme to help with sports practice…) and raising awareness on civic values through recreational activities.
  • Developing autonomy within the city and accessibility via the practice of cycling. 
  • Spreading the notion of wellbeing, the desire to take care of oneself, to enjoy oneself through the practice of weekly activities.
  • Guiding people to places dedicated to sports activities while facilitating access to events and activities.

In order to implement this scheme, the local government hires sports educators, makes sports facilities available, solicits the non-profit sector by engaging financial partnerships, training adapted to sports coaches and incentive grant criteria for clubs.

Q. How did you consider equity & accessibility when designing your initiative? What public-facing participatory tools and approaches have you or do you plan to use throughout the planning, design, and implementation of the initiative?  

A. In terms of equity, the objective is an equal offer of physical and sports activities between refugees and asylum seekers and the rest of the population of Strasbourg with an emphasis on gender equality. The spirit of sport facilitates accessibility to the system by reducing language, cultural and origin barriers.

For example, within the project “Learn to ride”, the participatory approach aimed at improving the implementation and efficiency of the strategy. It is essential to meet with beneficiaries within their structure to gather their requests and proposals for activities. This should help to:

  • Identify the lack of knowledge with the local referee in general disciplines such as swimming or cycling
  • In collaboration with the partners, develop programs adapted to the age categories. Children, teenagers, adults while encouraging the participation of families, and gender. This last aspect aims to encourage women who are culturally distant from certain physical and sports activities such as cycling.

This participatory approach is based on important exchanges between organizations in charge of refugees and asylum seekers from different origins and the city’s services. The program is thereby enriched by cultural pluralism.

Q. How do you or will you ensure your initiative’s long-term, sustained impact? In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, how did you or do you plan to adapt your initiative?  

A. This initiative has clearly benefited from the dynamism and impulse given by the perspective and legacy of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This underlines the importance of making it last over time for the refugees and asylum seekers, and even to open it to new audiences for more solidarity and diversity through sport.

The social innovation dimension of this initiative is a real added-value for social actions aimed at vulnerable groups to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Moreover, the ongoing creation in Strasbourg of an “international observatory of the sport” which will have to identify the new expectations/problems related to the sport and the physical activity, will allow the promotion and the development of new initiatives of solidarity and integration at different scales. It will be the forum for constant exchanges with multiple local, national and international actors.

During the health crisis, despite the difficulties of combining sports practice and social distancing, the objective is to continue the activities by a great flexibility and adaptability of the services offered to refugees and asylum seekers.