Open water as a sportscape : analysis of canoeing in Finland for developing sport infrastructure and services
Canoeing, as a nature-based sport, is suitable for both leisure and competitive purposes in its various forms. The canoe provides a more close-up experience of aquatic nature than any other vessel, and in its competitive form there are a dozen disciplines available for differing tastes and talents. Canoeing as a sport and recreational activity has not yet been researched from the sport services point of view; though nature tourism has been studied frequently. This multidisciplinary work challenges misconceptions about canoeing in Finland. The historical-cultural and natural environment, activated economic and non-economic resources will be examined. The research by nature is descriptive, with both quantitative and qualitative methods being used. The Triangular pillar structure of sport services was developed as the theoretical framework of this study. The target of the research is Finnish canoe clubs and the Finnish Canoe Federation. Contributions to the socio-cultural capital of the nation have been unfolded from historical references, art and literature. Canoeing had been an integrated part of Finnish culture since ancient times but due to unknown reasons this once flourishing activity diminished. The natural environment and climate are suitable for canoeing for between 80 to 130 days a year in different parts of the country. Concerning available resources in canoeing it was found that the canoe clubs and the Federation operate with a very low profile. Recreational canoeing routes and competitive sport facilities are randomly dotted around the country, and their quality does not meet today’s requirements. Canoe clubs in general are short of economic resources due to a low level of operation and unprofessional management, while available non-economic resources are not utilised adequately. In recommending actions to be taken the researcher suggests that the Federation should act as the responsible representative of all canoe clubs and canoe sport in Finland. It should develop an involving operation towards the lower organizational layer with the clubs at the same time playing a proactive role with regard the national administrational layer in order to support the development of recreational and competitive canoeing in Finland. Clubs should become more customer oriented service providers rather than the introverted operation that currently exists. The increase of youth involvement, development of facilities, infrastructure and services are the major issues to deal with in the near future so as to further the development of canoeing in Finland. ...
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