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European Heritage Days 2023: a bridge between sports and memory

05 setembro 2023 Cultura
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This year, the 40th European Heritage Days held on 16 and 17 September are focused on two themes: living heritage and sports heritage. Living heritage is mostly the practices and know-how transferred by previous generations, while sports heritage is part of the Cultural Olympiad, a set of cultural events scheduled throughout the year before the Paris Olympic Games 2024.

Created in 1984 by the French Ministry of culture, the Heritage Days aim at exposing to the largest audience the extraordinary wealth of heritage, monuments and sites with exceptional openings, new events and unusual visits. As early as 1985, the Days reached a European scale, and are now even international: more than 50 countries worldwide have joined the event, applying the principle of free of charge access in public monuments and discount price in private institutions participating in the event, the ministry of culture explains. 


Maintaining the memory of know-how in all places


For each edition of the European Heritage Days, at least one theme is chosen to offer a new angle from which to present the riches of our heritage. After sustainable heritage in 2022, the focus this year is on living heritage.
But what exactly is “living heritage”?  As the website dedicated to the event explains, the aim is to pay tribute to the practices, expressions, knowledge and skills passed down from one generation to the next. Living heritage is “constantly recreated” in the form of songs, dances, rituals, festivals, traditional crafts and knowledge of nature and the universe. Each of us, the site emphasises, can “bring to life many these living heritages that have been passed on to us by our families or through our social and cultural interactions”. And, insofar as these practices “are sometimes associated with objects, landscapes or monuments”, living heritage gives them their full meaning.

The choice of this theme is perfectly in line with the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which “brings international recognition to shared practices” that reflect genuine cultural diversity. Passing the living heritage to the next generations also means more safeguarding actions contributing to sustainable development.


Memory and news of sports


The second easier to grasp theme is the heritage of sport, in consistency with the Cultural Olympiad, an event designed to bring together art and sport through thousands of activities organised throughout France in preparation for the great celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024.

While, as the heritage days note, sports heritagedeveloped significantly with the growth in sporting activities (whether the evolution of old practices or new ones), mainly at the beginning of the 20th century”, it is nonetheless very much alive at the dawn of this Olympic year! The aim of the Cultural Olympiad is to get everyone on board in France, in every part of the country, to take part in the Great Collection of Sports Archives. Photos, posters and newspaper articles, for example, will be collected as part of this collection of documents relating to the world of sport. These documents will then be classified and promoted in a variety of ways, including exhibitions, workshops and artistic and cultural education initiatives. The European Heritage Day, with its theme of sporting heritage, is therefore an integral part of this project, and in fact the bridgehead for it.


A cultural ideal shared throughout Europe


In addition to these two themes chosen by France, all over the world, “heritage will show its finest for these exceptional days”.

In Europe, information on European cultural policies and all the programmes for each country can be consulted on the Council of Europe website.

The Council of Europe stresses the pan-European nature of this project, which is helping “to bring citizens closer together and to highlight the European dimension of cultural heritage in the 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention”. More than 70,000 events are organised every year, all over Europe, to help raise awareness of the value of this shared heritage and “the need to preserve it for present and future generations”.


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