Medellin 2017 – First Impressions

Medellin 2017 – First Impressions

Can’t be happier than I have been in the last 36 hours. Just had to state that before anything else.

1. The air pollution has gotten out of control. The horizon looks gray all day and the sun doesn’t shine, it just kind of glows in the sky. My city is sick and needs to get healthy right quick.

2. The feeling of being home is dignifying. Medellin is my home and it brings me great pride to represent my birthplace and what I truly consider to be a place I will not be seen as an outsider. On a related note, two people have mentioned there is a growing Venezuelan immigrant population in Medellin. This is highly interesting as Medellin is not used to having large numbers of immigrants from other countries settle here. Makes for interesting follow up to see what research has been done on the subject.

3. I don’t know how I survived having been a motorcycle rider for 6 years in this city. The driving is aggressive and it raises your pulses. In spite of that, it does have a flow that kind of makes sense. Still scary though.

4. I’ll just put it bluntly, just being away from the US and the routine is refreshing in that I get a true sense of what I truly value to be important in my life. Just that selfe-awareness boosts my ability to make positive decisions. I’m currently on minute 20 of an 8-hour bus ride to Necocli in the Uraba region to wind down and completely reset physically and mentally. It’s as close I will get to my Walden on Earth.

Rambling done.

Lights and Turf

Lights and Turf

Public space in the United States does not exist. At least not in the area I live in. It seems that the norm is that there is no open public space available to anyone after dark. This contrasts heavily with I came to know as public space in Medellin, Colombia.

In Medellin, the city´s ‘sports units’, as the complexes are officially called, come alive at night with a variety of sports clubs taking the fields to practice, public zumba and aerobics lessons, occassional professional events and others. Why isn’t this implemented as a program by local governments in Montgomery County? If I want to practice a sport or just go outside somewhere to get some exercise at night, I either have to take to the streets for a jog or join a private club or gym of some sort. This seems pretty lame for the United States of America. For the most part, public space in the US is designed to get you to spend money or to go home.

Why don’t local high schools turn on their track lights so people can get some exercise in? Is it the weather? Is the expectation that colleges and universities will fulfill this social need? Does the fact that it doesn’t get dark until after 9 in the summer make local officials ignore the need for lighting at public sports venues during the rest of the year? In some communities, this might not make much of a difference, but I would be pretty bullish on promoting late-night public sports facilities in dense neighborhoods. The individual health benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the benefits this would have on many people’s sense of belonging and identity within their communities.

Comprehensive Guide to all of Medellin’s Public Sports Facilities by it’s Sports and Recreation Department (INDER)

Comprehensive Guide to all of Medellin’s Public Sports Facilities by it’s Sports and Recreation Department (INDER)

Apart from the amazing photography, this document from 2014 (PDF download link below) surveys each of the city’s sports complexes telling main facts, technical aspects, uses and in some cases, it manages to gather experiences from local residents and users.

Having trained, assisted or competed at many of these locations, I appreciate the work INDER has done in improving the facilities to have adequate spaces to participate in a variety of sports (although futbol still dominates most of the adequate available time and space on large fields). Most of these improvements have been done in preparation for international events that would bring critical international eyes to the city. These sporting events include the hosting of the South American Games in 2010 and two matches of the U-20 FIFA World Cup in 2011.

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Recent experiences do not bode well for cities and countries when they host major international sporting events, yet one consequence that I can say is beneficial is the improvement of the quality of the public sporting venues and equipment. This serves to stimulate participation by the population.

The full PDF can be found here: Escenarios Deportivos y Recreativos – INDER

International Day of Sport for Development and Peace —

Sport as an agent of change.

The recently concluded WT20 tournament in which the caribbean nations outclassed the mighty England in the historic Eden Gardens in Kolkata, was a story of that have inspired many to put up a fighting spirit despite problems with their board, money, lack of facilities and infrastructure. It is sports that brought the people of the […]

via International Day of Sport for Development and Peace —

Can Sports Help Strengthen The Naira? — Random Thoughts Of A Nigerian Youth

I think this piece by Arturo Zinga is worth sharing. This is brain food for ideas later on.

It is common knowledge that our economy greatly depends on crude oil production. It is also common knowledge that the International market price of crude oil has been dwindling since last year. As a result, people from all walks of life have called on the Nigerian Government to diversify our economy. Many highlighted the need […]

via Can Sports Help Strengthen The Naira? — Random Thoughts Of A Nigerian Youth

Port Covington

Port Covington

“[We are] outraged that, one year after the world bore witness to the decades of disinvestment in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, city leaders would respond by bending over backwards to back a $535 million playground for the rich,” Charly Carter, the executive director of Maryland Working Families, a progressive political advocacy group, says. “This is the new Jim Crow—black and brown families subsidizing wealthy developers while our own neighborhoods crumble.” – Slate.com, June 2016

What if Under Armour atomized its development plans throughout the city and created mixed-use, mixed-income development that included public space with athletic fields sponsored by UA?

Now THAT would be something.

More to come.

Sunday Morning in Baltimore

Honestly, one of the best feelings is mustering the courage to seize the day early on a Sunday morning actually getting out of the door early to see something new. Today that something was a bit more of Baltimore and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pictures captured were during a quick drive through some of Charm City today.

There is something missing when living in the DC area. It’s the the whole sense of belonging. Identity. And it’s not a bad thing, but DC’s overall ‘vibe’ is just too captured in the hurricane that is government of the most powerful nation in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love DC and all of the opportunities it has to offer, but lately when I’ve traveled to different cities in the US, I have been more sensitive to certain local ‘flavors’ and it has opened up my mind in terms of where I could see myself living in the future. Maybe that’s just one of the side effects of having lived in Medellin for 12 years.

Baltimore is one of those places that I would like to continue exploring. I feel like there is much to learn about its history, architecture, urban development, transportation planning, sports infrastructure, economic development and overall potential to become a hub of creation and innovation on the east coast of the US. I would like to test the paradox of Baltimore being ironically referred to as ‘the city of the future …that will always be the city of the future’. I have a feeling that we will actually see Baltimore break out of that glass ceiling within the next decade and it will suddenly become much more important. Maybe it reminds me of Medellin and Colombia in that way.

Although there are many important topics that are very dear to people’s hearts, I would like to focus on topics closely related to my research interests, as varied as those may be. There are some things I’ve heard about Baltimore but I haven’t verified or tracked down, and would like to know more about.

Some of the ones I can think of right now are:

  • Under Armour’s project in Port Covington
  • Economic devastation and critical human development indicators in urban neighborhoods
  • The local gentrification map and story
  • Hispanic neighborhoods in Baltimore
  • Camden Yards – I’ve lived in MD for 15+ years and I’ve never been here (shameful)

In the coming weeks, I will be working with LGA Projects with residential rehabilitation in Baltimore and as I spend more time in and researching about the city, I hope to explore some of these topics that pique my curiosity.

Valuing Foreign Investment

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Let´s shift attention away from the amount of jobs created and focus on the linkages to the local economy. This means valuing local sourcing of materials with high added-value. Small and medium-sized enterprises are proven to show stronger linkages with the local economy they inhabit. Large enterprises have a larger tendency to obtain their materials from international suppliers through corporate networks. Striving for local economic development makes us tackle the challenge of being responsible about what economic activities contribute to a sustainable future within a community.

My short experience with this topic is based on research done during my thesis looking at local economic development in Medellin, Colombia. Specifically, the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Rionegro, next to the international airport. A study of approximately 80 companies within the EPZ concluded that the types of companies that generated the most backward linkages with the local economy were those that were capital-intensive, service sector companies.

The study was a basic approximation to measuring linkages, yet it could be improved in many ways and will not delve on that here. Yet it is a starting point for me to further test this idea that when we allow foreign companies, be it in Colombian EPZ’s or Wal-Marts in Anywhere, USA, we should look at how that move actually generates growth and develops talent at the local level.

By the way, I know I’m new to this so if you have any comments for me,  I would appreciate them!

 

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

The link between sports and quality of life has always been a topic of interest to me, yet I’ve never had the academic profile or any work-related reason to research this topic. Even so, it would be hard to deny the fascination that invades my eyes when I am unexpectedly acquainted with public athletic facilities in the few cities I have had a chance to visit in my life.

During my Master’s program, when we were due to decide on a research project that would grow into an attempted thesis, I tried. I submitted a research proposal centered around the role that Medellin’s Popular Schools of Sport (Escuelas Populares del Deporte) was having in generating social change in the city’s youth. The vagueness surrounding the concept of ‘social change’ was that proposal’s downfall, coupled with the lack of qualification to deal with such a sociological concept when my only academic background at that point had been in international business.

Well, I finished my Master’s degree. And my thesis didn’t have much to do with sports. It turns out that going from the start point of your thesis all the way to the finish line generates a research interest. An instinctual way of looking at life that somehow clicks with a concept you’ve explored. For me, that concept was local development and the notion that progress of any endeavor can only truly and sustainably be made from within.

A week after defending my thesis, I was flying on a one-way plane ticket to the United States to see what other challenges could be taken advantage of to learn and grow. It’s been a year since then and my wife and I are looking forward to seeing what opportunities can be made and had while living in a privileged society where achieving an acceptable quality of life, in a comprehensive way, is not a day-to-day struggle.

With our gratefulness with life for this opportunity, we want to make the most of it and wish to have the freedom to pursue whatever challenges we set our minds to. In 6 months, we have decided to start a new business, travel, live outside of our comfort zone and make huge sacrifices, and it has all been worth it.

This page, this blog, will be my space, where I will explore everything related to the interaction between sports, its infrastructure, and economy. I have never been a writer, and I hope this will put an end to it, so to begin I will try to follow a format that will hopefully guarantee I produce something.

I am aware I might be the only one to ever read this introduction again, but I am also 100% confident that when I do read it, I will be extremely happy and proud that I did it.

Halloween, 2016. Trick or treat.