Already from the beginning of the work on the Marca Andorra (Brand Andorra), it was considered that the mountain ecosystem, that characterizes our environment, is beyond just snow tourism. This environment has brought us much prosperity for decades and it still hides additional virtues that could bring a lot of added value to the economy of the country in the future. In fact, this was reflected in several of the projects that were proposed in the official presentation in March 2019, which basically highlighted initiatives aimed at promoting sport based on the special conditions that a mountain country like ours offers.
From the public sector, the promotion of sport has been seen as an opportunity to diversify the country’s economy and at the same time become a reference in the development and promotion of the values associated with it. On the side of business and knowledge development, the Andorra Sports Cluster association has become a clear example, which main objective has been to connect companies, institutions, and sportsmen in order to promote innovation, digitalization, internationalization and networking, guiding economic and social agents so that sport becomes a key driver of the Andorran economy in the coming years. The commitment to the digital economy, entrepreneurship and innovation also finds an important point of development in sport and will certainly have a place in the smart country experience of the Andorra Living Lab within the future entrepreneurial ecosystem of our country.
One of the objectives of the Marca Andorra was also to promote traditional but future-oriented economic sectors, such as tourism. The project tried to expand the concept of “tourist” to transform it into a “temporary resident”, integrated into an experience of exploring the country that would help you to know it much more thoroughly and to discover all the virtues it hides, in more ways than only learning to respect it for the values it represents. In short, it was about identifying the amateur sports tourists and creating a unique experience for them that would bring them closer to Andorra and everything that this enormous ecosystem of sport, nature and well-being has to offer.
A possible example of this concept could be found in the initiative promoted by Andorra Tourism named Andorra Sports Training Country, a platform which main objective is the promotion of Andorra as a sports tourism destination, and which is based especially on the fact that our country has modern sports facilities, some linked to high sports performance, a wide range of equipment suitable for all sports levels, as well as the possibility of using hiking routes, going trekking, mountain biking or cycling to complement training at certain specialized centers.
It is no coincidence that a few years ago, many elite sportsmen, for whom the “height” factor is essential for the improvement of their sports performance, have arrived in our country, , and have settled with their respective teams in Andorra where they train regularly and advantageously for their interests as highly competitive athletes. We are talking about cyclists and athletes of the different disciplines in mountain sports. Although the list can be longer based on the promotion that is made of the improvement of physical performance at height, which can be enormously beneficial for a long list of sports practices, individual or collective.
In this sense, there are compelling reasons that justify Andorra’s commitment in the coming years to promote and potentially high performance in sport at altitude as a differential value capable of being a pole of attraction for amateur athletes and those of elite or high competition. To begin with, there are very few facilities of this type in Europe and those existing are public and without the latest technological advances that are having such an influence on improving sports performance. However, there are quite a few countries where
height insufficient for their athletes, forcing them to look for more suitable locations. Just think of the lack of height in all the countries of Northern Europe, for example.
And one does wonder why training at altitude really becomes so important for the athlete’s performance? The main thing is that at a certain altitude, the body produces more red blood cells that allow it to increase resistance when returning to sea level. However, the time is optimized, because being at height, the body trains even when it is resting. Likewise, it improves muscle capillarization and, consequently, muscle performance. It improves the muscular enzyme machinery and the buffering capacity, which brings great benefits in terms of anaerobic work, and increases the stimulus of the ventilatory muscles, among other multiple advantages.
In this sense, Andorra becomes an ideal location, as it has the possibility of training at height starting from 900 meters above sea level, up to 2,000 meters of altitude, which is considered the optimal level by a large majority of sports and even work is being done on facilities at 2,600 meters of altitude, such as the private project promoted by BOMOSA and initially known as CRAMEA and recently renamed ICÒNIC. Precisely this project is the first to allocate a significant investment to create an absolutely special center in order to offer training at specific heights for cyclists and athletes specialized in high mountain and skiing and who can benefit from heights both in physical preparation and in recovery treatments, and, above all, rest, which as we have indicated, is restorative and performance enhancing.
This private infrastructure, but with public support, finds its counterpoint with a public infrastructure such as the Sports Technology Center of Ordino. An ambitious project that is already activated and in the phase of expansion of facilities and which promises to be another benchmark, both for the country’s athletes and foreigners interested in the virtues that our country offers.
But our country’s ambition cannot stop here. We have a historic opportunity to become a true benchmark for “high performance sports at altitude” at European level and base Marca Andorra on what the country can offer differently in this field in the future.
I sincerely believe that Andorra is prepared to host new infrastructures that will complement the aforementioned and that will take as a reference the most optimal height for most Olympic sports disciplines, that is at 2,000 meters of altitude, although it may end up complementing it with activities at 1,600 and 900 meters, options that Andorra offers. Imagine a sports and medicine center in a natural environment with state-of-the-art equipment and technology.
Let’s imagine being the reference in Southern Europe for elite athletes and high-level athletes, as well as amateur athletes. Imagine installations that are unique in the world, that accurately replicate the environment and movement, atmospheric and visual conditions, reproducing the same efforts as in a real environment. We imagine a hydrodynamic canal for swimming and rowing, a snow track for cross-country and alpine skiing or a track with rigid pavement for cycling or running.
Let’s imagine a center equipped with sensors and cameras to generate a complete report of your condition in real time, as well as viewing your training in 3D detail. Let’s imagine all this complemented by a wellness center and research center, a preventive diagnosis and multidisciplinary research, as well as a university center specializing in studies related to medicine and sport.
Andorra has incredible spaces and is absolutely suitable for infrastructures such as those mentioned, which could compete with similar in Spain or France, but with the advantage of our country´s complementary offer, with respect to those mentioned, much more isolated and obsolete. In fact, if such infrastructures were arranged in a global smart country offering all the
materials mentioned above together with everything else that already exists, combining it with the integration of research and development in the sports field in one of the future technology parks in the country and consequent teaching and educational initiatives, we would probably meet the most important high-altitude performance ecosystem in Europe, and that would mean Marca Andorra to become an international reference of this magnitude. You just need to have an open mind and a vision of the future to imagine it and push it forward! Andorra deserves it!