NATO Cultural & Sports Clubs: Where It All Started

Updated: May 3, 2021


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.