Mark A Phillips | Áreas Deportivas Urbanas - La Habana, Cuba

Cuba is a small country, but has had a significant impact in international sport competitions. But at an informal level, there are limited facilities, especially in built-up urban areas. A few areas exist, regenerated from derelict sites by charities and local communities. Within Habana Vieja, BarrioHabana (Facebook / barriohabana.org), a local community project have developed four sports areas and are working on a fifth community area. These Áreas Deportivas are often not much more than an open concrete courtyard with exercise equipment, some ‘pitches’ marked out in paint and a few basketball hoops. They are often tucked away, hidden from the casual visitor, in courtyards surrounded by buildings and walls, usually with only a small gate for access. Some are painted bright colours, or have ball courts painted on them, others are more elaborate complete with murals. Their use varies throughout the day. In the early morning, they are mainly used by adults working out and exercising in the gym areas. Later in the day, after children go to school, they are used as school play areas. During the glaring heat of midday, they are largely empty. Then in late afternoon, as schools finish, they start to fill with youths, who workout, play basketball or football or just socialise. In the early evening, there is a mix of sporting and social activity, as they provide a location to meet up with friends. Although not central to any formal sporting activities, they provide important grassroots, local facilities. In densely populated urban areas with limited ‘green space’, they provide an opportunity for activity and recreation and form part of the well-being culture in urban Habana.
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