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Sports and culture have always played an essential role in the lives of NATO staff,
as the following excerpt from a Staff Centre brochure from the 1970s shows:
A staff centre is obviously not something that grows by itself. The idea was
first mooted when NATO was still in Paris. However, nothing very definite was
done about it until the move to Brussels in 1968 when NATO’s location on the
outskirts of the city made it almost a necessity. A number of cultural and
sports clubs, known collectively by the acronym NCSC, had been in existence
for many years under the umbrella of the Staff Association. The question in
Brussels was how they could best continue their activities. The obvious
answer was the Staff Centre. Alas, easier said than done. It took a number of
years and the unrelenting determination of some members of the staff,
including the late Bob de Vries and Loren Goldman, to persuade member
countries to finance the building costs and this only on the condition that the
operational costs were met by the staff themselves.
And so the Staff Centre came into being with its football pitch, its tennis
courts, its children’s sandpit, its swimming pool, for which the late Tom Morris
fought so hard, its restaurants and bars, etc. It has since been enlarged, in the
first place because success breeds success and then, too, because it enjoyed
the effective and constant support from the Administration. A “bubble” now
covers two tennis courts and a sports complex has been added to the main
building. Soon, if not already, the Centre will be a match for the best in
Brussels, indeed anywhere else, at an international organization.
The article draws to a close with the author’s hope that the brochure full of photos
and drawings will entice everyone to join what he called a “real home away from
home”. At the time there were music and bridge clubs, plus various clubs whose
activities took place outside the Staff Centre (flying, art, cinema, horse riding,
gardening, fishing, stamp collecting, sailing). The staff could even make theatre
bookings! Most of the clubs listed in the brochure are still in existence; some have
disbanded, while others have been created.
NATO has undergone sweeping transformations since that time – successive rounds
of enlargement, an evolving geopolitical situation and consequently new roles for
The organization, a move to the new Headquarters – yet its commitment to the
fundamental values of the Washington Treaty remains unchanged. We at the NATO
Cultural and Sports Clubs (NCSC) have done our best to weather those changes.
While the governance model of the Staff Centre has also changed, the NCSC
without a doubt remain necessary to the well-being of the staff of an international
organization of this magnitude. Like our colleagues of yesteryear, we want to see the
Staff Centre, like its predecessor, achieve its potential; we hope its members and its
staff will make it a “home away from home” where we form enduring bonds in this
international civil and military environment.
The NCSC is proud to wear the colours of the Organization and strive to play a
positive, constructive role in its life. If you have any ideas or suggestions to share
with us, please do not hesitate to get in touch.