Maastrichts Mooiste 2007 (Part 4): An interview with Gerrino Mulder, President of the Maastrichts Mooiste Foundation
June 27, 2007 Leave a Comment
Over the weekend of 8 – 10 June 2007 the city of Maastricht was host to a cultural and athletic festival known collectively as ‘Maastricht’s Mooiste’. Organized annually by the Maastricht’s Mooiste foundation, the event proved to be a dynamic and unforgettable event full of great multicultural flavor and pleasant competition.
Gerrino Mulder, President of the Maastrichts Mooiste Foundation, tells Crossroads writer and Maastrichts Mooiste contestant Eliot Rolen about the origins, the challenges and the goals of the increasingly popular annual sportive and cultural event in Maastricht.
Eliot Rolen: What was the motivating factor behind the organization of the Maastrichts Mooiste Event?
Gerrino Mulder: The main focus was to make Maastricht healthier. Maastrichts Mooiste intends to create a lifestyle of physical exercise and overall healthier living. Prevention is the key, to get people interested in taking care of themselves before they fall into the traps of the Burgundian lifestyle which is a very influential cultural facet of Maastricht. That lifestyle issue is only made worse by the fact that Maastricht is located in a valley, which keeps the pollution hanging over people’s heads.
Another obstacle to preventing healthy living is the rising unemployment rates in Limburg, and with less money on their hands people see running, while less than golf, as an unnecessary luxury reserved for the richer members of society. Our goal is to change that, by hosting a low-cost event that will help us create a healthier Maastricht. We also want to be a model for other exercise events throughout the Netherlands in order to make the entire country healthier.
Eliot Rolen: What were some of the difficulties experienced in organizing the event?
Gerrino Mulder: Sports don’t receive a lot of funding from the Dutch government, so in order to make this event economically feasible we had to shift the focus of the event from one of sportive competition to one of promoting better health. Through cooperation with HAPPY (Heart Attack Prevention Program) and the Academic Hospital of the University of Maastricht many of the participants could be tested in order to determine their overall health. But this is only the beginning as in the future we hope to be able to test 1,000 to 2,000 people, which is also very expensive.
As an economist, I can tell you that the cost benefit ratio of focusing the event on health and not exercise has proven very effective. Investment into the organization has doubled from EUR 150,000 to 300,000 between last year and this one and there is the hope that this will eventually reach EUR 1 million.
The popularity of the event was surprising: over 2,000 runners showed up on Sunday, far more than anticipated, and it may pose a problem in the future because Maastricht’s relatively narrow streets are not capable of holding many more. We cannot alter the course due to the amount of construction and lack of a diversity of running areas in the center. So if this popularity increases, as it probably will, it may require that the running events be split up into different days, or perhaps even different periods during the year.
Another problem that we encountered in the event was in the Sports Market. We had originally planned to exhibit a wide selection of sporting goods and demonstrate various sporting disciplines (boxing and fencing, among others), along with a sports fashion shows and dance acts from regional and national sporting clubs. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate. Only 100 people showed up when we originally expected 1,000.
Eliot Rolen: How was the Waiters Race and Global Cultural festival integrated into your plan on promoting better health in Maastricht?
Gerrino Mulder: The Waiters Race was just for fun. The Global Culural Festival was never intended to be part of Maastrichts Mooiste, it was simply a coincidence that both the Global Culural Festival and the Sports Market that we organized happened on the same day. After we found this out we called Studium Generale and agreed to cooperate with one another.
Eliot Rolen: Do you think that the international reputation that Maastricht possesses was reflected in Maastrichts Mooiste events?
Gerrino Mulder: The majority of the runners came from outside of Maastricht, which may be linked to the fact that exercise culture is more pronounced outside of Limburg. In my opinion people from Maastricht are much more interested in the annual Fair (Kermis), folk-singing, the 11th of the 11th (Carnival) and other local cultural traditions. As far as international representation outside of the Netherlands, a group of students from Maastricht’s international school, Joppenhof contributed 150 of its students to the children’s race, and won!
Eliot Rolen: Thank you for your time and I very much look forward to next year’s event.
Gerrino Mulder: You’re very welcome!
Note: The majority of the participants from outside of the Netherlands came from Belgium, as they brought 115 runners to the event, which was followed by 18 Germans, and then the list gets a little more constrained, as there was one participant from the UK, France, Hungary, and Austria. Still this paled in comparison, unsurprisingly, to the 2,581 Dutch runners in the race.
By Eliot Rolen
Eliot Rolen (US) is currently studying at University College Maastricht. He is also a correspondent for Informeel, within the newly launched UM Student Media initiative.
Further information: Maastrichts Mooiste website