WeAre 4 Children: digital technologies for sport and youth wellbeing

The Politecnico di Milano E⁴SPORT Laboratory has designed a T-shirt fitted with sensors – “smart garment” – to collect data on the wellbeing of children aged 11 to 12 during sport activities.


Physical activity during childhood is of the utmost importance because it builds muscle strength, develops bone structure, improves blood circulation, strengthens the immune system and teaches children how to share and socialise with their peers. However, the recent pandemic has led many children to give up doing physical activity to embrace more sedentary lifestyles.

Amateur sport clubs have always been important actors in helping children grow through sport, supporting them in the creation of a mind-body equilibrium.
Today, this task can also be carried out with the use of new tools: thanks to digital technologies, this objective can be achieved using methods that were inconceivable in the past. In particular, technologies related to the Internet of Things (IoT) – such as smart garments, smart watches, smart bracelets, movement and posture sensors, etc. – once only available to the most prestigious sport clubs, could also be adopted by amateur sport clubs to gather relevant data “from the field” related to the quality of training, sporting performance, and the physical and mental wellbeing of children.

In this context, the Politecnico di Milano Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering and Department of Design, in collaboration with the U.S. Bosto Sport Centre in Varese, have developed an innovative project to understand how digital technologies can contribute to the wellbeing of young footballers, and improve their sporting performance.
The “WeAre 4 Children” research project has been approved by Politecnico di Milano Ethics Committee and will involve 20 young footballers from U.S. Bosto who, during their weekly training sessions in Capolago and friendly matches, will wear a sensor-fitted T-shirt capable of collecting data on their sporting performance and physical wellbeing. The monitoring will take place through biometric sensors installed in the T-shirts themselves, including accelerometers, heart-rate monitors and specific motion capture sensors that can detect real-time information on parameters such as cardiac activity, posture, breathing, energy consumption and mood.

Politecnico di Milano and U.S. Bosto have engaged with partners in the Varese area. In particular, TK Soluzioni (an ICT company from Saronno) will provide support in creating the platform that will be used to integrate the data collected, Alfredo Grassi (a textiles company from Lonate Pozzolo) will offer its expertise for the design and production of the T-shirt, and the Centro Polispecialistico Beccaria health centre’s Sports Medicine Unit in Varese will monitor the physical and postural data.

The project is conceived as a feasibility study, aimed at establishing whether the digital solution developed ad hoc is appreciated by young footballers, their families and their trainers, and whether the data collected are reliable and the system works correctly in different scenarios of usability (training, matches, etc.).

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering research group, headed by Professor Emanuele Lettieri and Dr Andrea Di Francesco, Engineer, project manager and researcher at Politecnico di Milano “E4Sport” interdepartmental Laboratory, will assess the impact that the project could have on U.S. Bosto’s extended community, as well as its economic-financial sustainability, with contributions from all of the project’s partners.
The ambition is to be able to extend the tested solution to other amateur sport clubs, including other sports in addition to football.



For further information: https://www.e4sport.polimi.it/weare4children/

Sport as an inspiring model and a seat of values

“I am the master of my destiny. The captain of my soul”, as Nelson Mandela said, quoting “Invictus”, a wonderful poem composed by the Englishman, William Ernest Henley. During Madiba’s 27 years of imprisonment, this almost became a mantra, which enabled the South African activist to resist abuse, representing that indomitable soul capable of inspiring millions of people around the world. It is a phrase also taken up by Clint Eastwood in the homonymous feature film, Invictus (2009) [Italian title: Invictus – L’invincibile], in which the story of Mandela is intertwined with that of François Pienaar, captain of the South African national rugby team which won the World Championship in 1995.

Because sport, at every level, has always been a reason for union capable of smoothing out conflicts, overcoming hatred and flags and uniting 43 million people to push their team to beat the “invincible” All Blacks. This is a pattern that has also been repeated on the occasion of Euro 2020, for us Italians a source of great pride thanks to the victory of the national team coached by Roberto Mancini, which represents yet another confirmation of the power of sport, capable of uniting different countries through the first touring European competition.

The 51 scheduled meetings were organised in 11 cities, thus promoting a spirit of sharing which, almost magically, connected Rome with Baku, London with Bucharest, St. Petersburg with Amsterdam. It was an opportunity, also a particularly critical one given the health situation, but which constituted an added value in terms of communication, exporting (also) architectural, engineering and management expertise thanks to the acknowledged visibility of an event with such a following.

In this sense, iconic sports infrastructures such as Hampden Park (Glasgow, 1903) shared the stage with the latest generation of stadiums, establishing a partnership between commemoration and innovation, the latter highlighted by Euro 2020 due to the top-level facilities. By now fundamental issues such as sustainability, considered in the tout court sense, have for example formed the basis of the renovation of the Johan Cruijff Arena (Amsterdam, 1996), currently a real energy hub for its city, or the leitmotif of the entire area in which the Allianz Arena is located (Munich, 2005).

For this reason, alongside Italy, it is almost natural to consider also winners of Euro 2020 the 60,000 spectators who filled the Puskás Aréna (Budapest, 2019), the thousands of people who walked the Olympic Way to Wembley Stadium (London, 2007), or the spectacular vitality that has, since the opening match, illuminated the Foro Italico, where countless tricolours were waved and then, in an unforgettable European evening, featured on Wembley’s arch, able to break into the London night as a radiant symbolic manifesto of the tenacity demonstrated by our country to get out of the pandemic crisis.

Because ultimately, recalling some of Nelson Mandela’s words, it is values, identified in team spirit, in the will to rise again from difficulties, in the ambition to conquer something and even in adapting, that give sport the difficult mantle of inspirer.

This is regardless of the athlete’s talent, which must always be driven by “a desire, a dream, a vision” as the great Muhammad Ali maintained. Someone  ̶  like Madiba  ̶  who was capable of personifying the deepest essence of being a sportsman, not only during those unforgettable encounters, but also – and I would say above all – because of the strength he demonstrated in Atlanta ’96, when, his body now weakened, he still found the will to thrill millions of people, as if to reiterate one of his sayings: “Impossible is not a rule, it is a challenge.”

Bearing this in mind, the Master in Design Construction Management of Sports Infrastructure which I attended, and which is organised by the Politecnico di Milano and MIP, does in fact place sport at the centre of its programme, considering sports practice as an expression of this added value: the transversal nature of passion and sporting values combined with a high level of scientific and multidisciplinary training which offers a highly prestigious educational spectrum and, at the same time, professional and personal satisfaction.”


About the author
Luca Filidei

After graduating from the Politecnico di Milano as an architect, I obtained a University Master’s Degree in Design, Construction and Management of Sports Infrastructure at the same institution. I carried out research and assisted the Milan City Council on the occasion of the participatory budget. Since February I have been writing articles on sports infrastructure for the web magazine Calcio e Finanza [Football and Finance].



Beyond the sporting event: how to rethink stadiums and arenas

Infrastructures can no longer be conceived exclusively as theatres of sporting feats but must be seen as active elements within a social, economic and cultural fabric. This is explained by Emilio Faroldi, director of the Master in Sport Design and Management

Not only the stage for memorable athletic accomplishments, but also places able to enhance the context out of which they arise, with positive repercussions on a social, economic and cultural level.  It is the future, and in some cases the present, of sporting infrastructure. «But sports today are not only major infrastructure or the monument to high-level competitive events: it’s everything that shapes young people both in terms of character and physically.

This is why the culture of sports is essential. And managing sports is an extraordinarily complex job» explains Professor Emilio Faroldi, director of the Master in Sport Design and Management and Vice Rector of Politecnico di Milano.

But what does managing sports mean?

First management, then design

«It means approaching the management of facilities not only from a technical point of view, which is still fundamental, but also from a process perspective», explains Faroldi. «In other words, a manager today must be able to immediately incorporate aspects of a management nature in planning issues, trying to anticipate and prevent problems.

Think about big events, like the Olympic Games or major football competitions, like the  World Cup and the UEFA European Championship. «In most cases, the creation of sports infrastructure translates, immediately after the event, in it being abandoned. Sometimes as early as a few weeks after the last competition. To overcome this problem, we need to start to think about sports not as an event, but as an ordinary element. We need to look beyond to the future», explains Professor Faroldi.

Between emotions, experience and sharing

Those who are involved with sports management today also cannot ignore its methods of use, even and especially digital ones. «The first aspect is tied to the growth of eSports. In Asia there are already arenas that host gaming competitions, and many football clubs have teams of gamers. The second aspect instead involves the way we experience events. Sharing of that experience on social media is one of the aspects that pushes people to experience that same moment live. This is especially true of the new generations, but not only». Sports infrastructure thus becomes a space for sharing an experience to which emotions are inevitably tied. «We aren’t attached to the aspect of a structure, but to the emotions we have experienced within it. Of a stadium, we have at heart a suffered victory or an evening tied to a concert. It’s a parameter that shouldn’t be overlooked when we talk about the management of sports infrastructure».

Competitiveness requires competence

These are only some of the aspects that show the complexity and the strategic importance of sports and its structures, which therefore requires the training of professionals aware of the numerous implications tied to this field. The Master in Sport Design and Management, offered by Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with MIP, has exactly this goal: «Italian sports can no longer allow itself an empirical approach. It is a mistake to only let athletes enter sports management. Instead, we are interested both in people with technical training and those who come from other sectors like economics, law or design», clarifies Faroldi. «There are many job opportunities. Think about the stadium operations manager or about infrastructure project managers and facility project managers who dedicate themselves to sports as a vehicle for social inclusions. Figures that become essential in an increasingly competitive global context, and to which clubs must look, if they want to create structures able to bring economic benefits that are not limited to single sporting events».


A G.I.F.T. for children: engineering and social research to ensure that sport really is for everyone

For a child with a motor disability, sport is synonymous with social exclusion and discomfort. This is contrary to the common understanding, namely that sport paves the way for social inclusion. As such, it is an urgent matter to ensure that sport no longer means social exclusion for children with motor disabilities. This is the ambitious goal of the multidisciplinary research project “enGIneering For sporT for all” (GIFT), one of the winners of the Polisocial Award – 2019 Edition, the annual competition promoted by the Politecnico di Milano geared towards social responsibility, whose key topic this year was sport and social inclusion.

The GIFT project will focus on hemiplegic children attending primary school. This, however, is merely the starting point: the intention is, over time and with further funding, to cover most motor and cognitive disabilities so that sport truly can be for everyone.

The project will focus on two areas of research. One will be technological research with a view to developing innovative orthoses which, by correcting the functional deficit of hemiplegic children, will allow them to start to take part in sports. The other component will be social research, involving families, primary school teachers and sports associations so that these children can start to get involved in earnest, reducing the chasm that currently exists between those labelled “abled” and “disabled”.

The research project – lasting 18 months and coordinated by Prof. Manuela Galli from the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering –was the brainchild of the Engineering For Sport (E4Sport) Interdepartmental Laboratory at the Politecnico di Milano, established thanks to the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering – and it will benefit from the involvement of leading partners including the La Nostra Famiglia Association – IRCCS “Eugenio Medea”, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, ITOP, BTS, Math & Sport, Edumoto, Yuki Onlus and various sports associations.

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering will be on the front lines, dealing with the evaluation of the social and economic impact generated by the GIFT project by developing a specific methodology that allows them to measure the “value” generated by sports and sports-related activities. The hope is that this methodology will be applicable to the sports ecosystem as a whole, as well as the various actors therein, e.g. sports associations, amateur clubs, large professional clubs and leagues.

Understanding how sports and sports-related activities generate value for society and for the economic-productive system is a priority nowadays in the approach of promoting a radical change of perspective, recognising that sports and sports-related activities are not just fun, but rather an important investment – that must be understood and supported – for the wellbeing of society as a whole and its competitiveness over time,” explains Emanuele Lettieri, Full Professor of Accounting, Finance & Control and project manager of the GIFT project, “and it is not surprising that important institutions such as UEFA, FIGC and CONI have launched a number of projects in this vein, considering the measure of the value created by sports and sports-related activities to be a crucial piece of information for developing new policies and initiatives. And the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering is committed to making its contribution, together with the E4Sport Interdepartmental Laboratory”.

Milan-Cortina 2026: the challenge of resilience

Italy will once again host an Olympic event. But for the event to become a real opportunity, professionalism and preparation are needed. For this reason, Politecnico di Milano is offering a Master in Design, Construction and Management of Sports Infrastructure



For Milan and Cortina, the real challenge begins now. With the initial enthusiasm for being assigned the 2026 Winter Olympic Games having died down, now it’s necessary to think about how to organize and manage the event in the best possible way, to capitalize on what could be an important opportunity: «The virtuous management of an important sporting event represents a great opportunity for revitalization, both social and economic.  Not only for the cities involved directly, but potentially for the entire country» explains Davide Allegri, research fellow at a Politecnico di Milano and coordinator of the Master in Design, Construction and Management of Sports Infrastructure.

The legacy of an important event

Among the most recent positive examples, the most important case study is provided by London 2012. «An edition of the Games that highlighted a few concepts which by now can’t be ignored. Whoever has as an objective the social and economic sustainability of an event, can’t overlook careful planning, and in particular the upgrade of existing facilities» continues Allegri. «Eventual new infrastructure, instead, must be conceived with a high level of resilience, thus it must have characteristics of flexibility, adaptability and convertibility.

Once the event is over, it must be possible to reconvert infrastructure. It’s the concept of legacy: everything that an important event can bequeath to a territory, both in tangible and intangible terms».

More sports, more inclusiveness

And it’s precisely this approach that guided the Milan-Cortina candidacy: the recovery of existing infrastructure on one hand, the construction of a large new facility on the other, namely the Palaghiaccio (ice skating rink) that will indirectly redevelop the San Giulia neighbourhood and the village at the Porta Romano rail yard which will subsequently become university housing. «This new infrastructure will help make Milan even more of a touristic city, with increasingly innovative areas for sports and free time. That’s what happened, by now several years ago, in Barcelona thanks to the 1992 Olympics, whose effect is still quite visible today» explains Allegri.
In this way, the city becomes closer to the people and thus more inclusive: «Today sports invade every sector of the modern city. It involves everything related to well-being, cure of one’s body, entertainment, free time, for every age and group and social category. Having adequate sporting infrastructure means laying the foundation for a society based on shared and recognized educational values» explains Allegri.

A change of mindset

But Italy still has much to do. «In France, the sports ministry is among the most important, while in Italy it rarely has enjoyed its own autonomous strength and recognition. The facilities we have largely date back to the fascist period; others were built in the ‘70s and ‘90s, but none of these was designed with their long-term management in mind. Not to mention the numerous school gyms that dot our territory and lie in a state of disrepair: the small sports facilities, starting from scholastic and church ones, are fundamental cells that generate virtuous processes of social requalification» says Allegri. «We need to start again with a new cultural approach, that views sports and its spaces as essential values of contemporary society. For this reason, training focused on management is important»,

This is exactly the objective of the Master in Design, Construction and Management of Sports Infrastructure, established by Politecnico di Milano with the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Italian public bank Istituto per il Credito Sportivo, public sports development group Sport e Salute Spa, Coni Lombardia (the Lombardy region arm of Italy’s Olympic committee) and Italian first-division football league Lega Serie A. «This course is for post-graduate students in architecture, engineering and design. But it is such a multidisciplinary field that it also involves economic and legal disciplines, for example. The sports sector by now is one that requires great scientific preparation and specialization. There are numerous employment opportunities: sports clubs in all levels and sectors; public and private sports facility management institutes; public administrations».