Social Legacy of Sporting Events
Review of Literature and Reference List
David Legg, PhD
The social legacies from hosting sporting events are perhaps more important today than ever before. In 2007, Don Lockerbie, COO of Cricket World Cup 2007, asked “Other than Montreal, can you name a world games city who would say afterwards, “Boy I wish we hadn’t done that?” (Legg, 2009). More than 10 years later there are, in fact, likely many city leaders that would argue that hosting major sporting events has not been the boon they had hoped. There are also plenty of cities that have backed out of the bidding process for major events from concern of not meeting legacy goals.
The current tempered interest in hosting sport events may, in fact, simply reflect increased public accountability and a more realistic view of the costs and benefits. The 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games, for instance, attracted 16 candidates between them, while 27 expressed interest in hosting the 2016 Games alone. This fell considerably with bids for Olympic and Paralympic Games that followed and only two cities bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The paradox, however is that in 2008 there were more than 300 cities in the US that employed at least one person dedicated to attracting sports events to their cities and this has continued to grow. Today, many cities are taking the long term view when bidding and not necessarily focusing on short term or immediate financial returns. Cities instead, are trying to differentiate themselves as leaders whether it is to attract tourism or civic pride. Recent international examples for large cities include Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, and Shanghai and Singapore in Asia (Legg, 2009). On a smaller scale and nationally are cities that host Canada Games such as Red Deer in 2019 and St. Catharines in 2021.
While the examples above showcase cities that are hosting for purported or hoped for legacies, many people still doubt the benefits (Legg, 2009). There is recognition that bidding and hosting Games is not a panacea for all that ails a city (Preuss, 2007) and many fear that the promises made are really just there to convince governments, community leaders and the general public, and are “benefit hyperbole” (Baade & Matheson, 2000, p.132; in MacAdam, 2011).
We believe, however, that sports events can deliver legacies, with the caveat that they are planned for appropriately. Our hope with this document, is to help address this challenge by examining one specific type of legacy for communities that can result from host sporting events. We have chosen to focus on the social legacies, which have typically been overlooked when compared to those that are more related to economics or infrastructure.
To do so, we have reviewed the myriad of definitions and approaches to understanding legacy, provided examples of where social benefits have accrued and finished with a review of how social legacies can be measured and ensured for long term benefit by the communities hosting sporting events.
The lessons learned from this report include:
- All too often social legacies are simply an afterthought and host communities need to position them as a ‘need to have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.
- Social legacies are emerging as drivers but community benefits are not being fully utilized and in many ways there is too much lip service paid to them.
- Engagement with community groups happens too far into the Games’ bidding, planning and hosting process.
- Too often, social legacies are a one off with no thought to real long-term benefits and sustainability.
- One size does not fit all.
- Planning for social legacies must begin before the bid phase, before the technical busyness/Games delivery mode takes over. From the first moment a Games or event is envisioned the vision and results, impact and legacies should be considered.
- Different, but not necessarily better, opportunity for social legacy lies with smaller events as they are more frequent, more focused, more widely distributed and could potentially provide collective small gains that make for big differences.
For many communities, hosting sport events is seen as a panacea for any number of challenges (Horne 2007, Solberg & Preuss 2007, Black 2008, MacAloon 2008a). Sometimes referred to as the triple-bottom-line approach, host communities hope that sporting events could provide social, economic and environmental benefits (Chappelet & Junod, 2006). Of these, much attention has been paid to the economic and urban developmental impacts, but much less is known about the value of events to deliver on a wider social change agenda. The concept of social change is often used as a catch-all term for alleviating social issues (Misener et al, 2019) and because of the negative attention given to major sport events often because of overly-optimistic economic forecasts, there now appears to be more attention paid to the potential social legacies. A second challenge is that the focus on legacies and benefits resulting from hosting sporting events have been related to a concomitant increase in research that question whether they are ever realized at all (Cashman 2006; Matheson 2008; Preuss 2007 in Bob & Swart, 2010).
Thus, to better understand what the social legacies truly are, and how they might be better encouraged and activated we have embarked on this report. This literature review, which will form the first part of this report, will be the foundation for the remainder of the project. This review will also explore impact measurement methodologies, best practices and innovative initiatives and approaches.
Sport Canada is working with Canadian major sport event stakeholders to build a set of impact and legacy related definitions and principles that are generally agreed upon for use by the parties specifically in the context of working together on sport events. Each definition, for example, may not be the exact definition of any one party, but all are intended to drive early and ongoing collaborative pursuit of bid and event impacts and legacies.
Impact, for instance, is defined as “the change or effect of a particular activity or activities that otherwise would not have occurred. An impact, meanwhile, can occur at any time (immediate or delayed) with its’ effects being short-term or lasting and can be positive or negative, temporary or permanent, direct or indirect, reversible or irreversible, planned or unplanned, certain or uncertain, short-term or long-term” (Sport Canada Working Group, 2019).
Benefit, is recognized as a ‘positive’ impact and minimizes negative impacts this has five areas associated with it. These include benefits in:
Of importance to this project are the social benefits defined as “positive impacts that foster improvements in an individual’s circumstances, opportunities, engagement, awareness, and overall health, particularly those of under-represented groups” (Sport Canada Working Group, 2019). Cultural benefits, which are closely related to social benefits, include “positive impacts that result in the creation, expression, presentation, promotion, and/or celebration of Canadian and international art, culture, and heritage across the widest possible variety of forms”. It is these definitions that will now form the benchmark for the remainder of this project. Community benefits, meanwhile which are often included within social legacies include “positive impacts on a place/location/region that improve and/or increase its sustainability, capacity, amenities, accessibility, and/or the sense of pride of its citizens” (Sport Canada Working Group, 2019).
History of Legacy Research
The definitions presented above are relatively recent but the concept of legacy from hosting sport events, and in particular social legacy, is not new. It’s ‘popularity’ within academic and practitioner documents, however, has certainly expanded in the early 2000s. The idea of legacy became so important at that time that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) amended its’ own Charter to include a particular reference to the creation of positive legacies from the Games. The definition of legacy has since been updated and the one now used by the IOC is “any action (practice) in a given area (e.g. host city) and time driven from structural changes initiated by staging of the Olympic Games.”
While legacy became more ‘fashionable’ in the 2000s the first reference to Games’ legacy appears to be from the Bid book for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne (Girginov, 2018). There was then a gap until the late 1990s with notable Games that have often been associated with legacies such as Barcelona (1992) and Lillehammer (1994) having little to no reference to the concept in any of their official documents (Girginov, 2018; Gold & Gold, 2009, Leopkey, 2009). In addition, the few studies and reports that did acknowledge Games’ legacies tended to focus on economic and infrastructure benefits. According to Deccio and Baloglu (2002), and Kim and Petrick (2005), this neglect was because event organizers, “for political reasons, tended to focus on these impacts as the means of generating support and interest from residents. The social impacts, meanwhile, were more complicated than the economic ones and therefore more difficult to understand and accurately calculate” (Bob & Swart, 2010).
One exception during this timeframe was an impact analysis on the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games (Ritchie, 2000). Here, Ritchie and Lyons (1990) conducted longitudinal research with the residents of Calgary leading up to, during, and after the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. The monitoring process was referred to as the Olympulse Monitor and was used to track the awareness, knowledge and perceptions of Calgarians, in relation to factors and issues that were of interest to the research team and the Organizing Committee (p. 14). Calgarians were asked before the Games whether they felt, in general, if it was a good idea for Calgary to be the host city. From the survey 84.7% responded positively, which then increased to 97.8% after the event. Calgarians noted reservations initially, but post-event believed that the Games had been a good experience, suggesting that there had been a positive social impact (or at least the perception of one). Residents were also asked what they considered to be the highlights of the Games. Only 6.6% mentioned the new facilities while 11.8% felt that they brought everyone together, thus creating a sense of community. Respondents were also asked about the benefits from the Games and how Calgary could build upon them. Citizen pride was noted by 8.8%, bringing citizens together by 4.9%, and a chance to meet other people by 4.1%. Ritchie and Lyons (1990) concluded, two years following the Games, that the long-term effects of the Winter Olympics remained to be seen, though in the short-term, residents seemed happy with the ‘social impact,’ (p. 23).
Following this earliest foray into assessing social impact from Games’ there was, as already noted, a break for about 15 years. Then in 2002, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hosted the International Symposium on the Legacy of the Olympic Games (1984-2000) (Girginov & Hills, 2008) and here, they identified six tangible and intangible legacies from hosting Games. These included:
- economic impact
- cultural considerations
- social debate
- sporting legacy
- political legacy
- value of Olympic education
To assess if these legacies were taking place, the IOC implemented the Olympic Games Impact (OGI) project, which required host cities to undertake a comprehensive, longitudinal study designed to measure the economic, social and environmental impact of the Games (Girginov & Hills, 2008). This ended following the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games due, in part, to the recognition that legacy was likely context or city specific and thus comparisons from one host community to the next was inaccurate and perhaps inappropriate.
These earliest attempts at assessing and identifying legacy were met with both supporters and detractors. Those who supported the ideas tended to subscribe to the belief that sport was good and the concept of legacy, while ambiguous, would simply follow. Girginov (2018) has suggested, that this model of legacy still continues and forms the foundation for the current model supported by the IOC, and developed by Preuss (2014, 2015). Girginov (2018) also suggested that the IOC’s concept of legacy may have been high-jacked by what Becker (1966: 147) referred to as ‘moral entrepreneurs’; which are ‘crusaders’ with the hope that hosting sporting events would be viewed as beneficial and inherently positive. Coalter (2010) concurred with this assertion, suggesting that both scholars and practitioners were perhaps, too often, influenced by the misguided notion that sport is automatically a force for social good and could help solve all the world’s ills. As with many things, there are also those who took a bipolar view and suggested that some critical scholars had let the pendulum swing too far and become jaundiced to the potential positive values of sport. An ultra-negative perspective, some argued, could then overlook the potential and progressive values of sport by clouding understanding of its’ social effects, impacts and development-potential, and perpetuate the perception of powerlessness from sport practitioners and scholars to advocate for, and advance positive change. As with most things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
While we are cognizant that the benefits of sport can be overly proselytized, we would likely align with those arguing that positive benefits can result from hosting sport events, provided that the planning for legacies is done beforehand and in a purposeful way. The power of sport and events for positive social change is in our opinion worth continued support or at least consideration. In the Australian Sport Hall of Fame, the following is posted: "A sporting moment happens once. Never to be repeated. A split second in time captured forever. They live in the minds of people: who competed, who were there, and who pass their stories from generation to generation. They shape our collective view of ourselves, and our country. They become a blueprint for what we value and inspiration for all. Moments that made us”. We would tend to agree and our hope then is to share with communities a plan of how to better ensure positive social legacies occur from the hosting of sport events. Exploring and determining how social legacies are understood is thus the first important step in this journey.
Before we understand the legacy or impact of a sporting event we must first appreciate what the events are with which we refer. Getz (1997:4) states: ‘events are temporary occurrences, either planned or unplanned. They have a finite length, and for planned events this is usually fixed and publicized. Events are transient, and every event is a unique blending of its duration, setting, management, and people (Bob & Swart, 2010). The range of events from a Canadian context that would fit within this definition are thus vast.
One way of defining legacy, meanwhile, is as anything and everything from hosting an event (including the good, bad, intended and unintended) while impact implies some form of causality and intentionality towards an intended outcome (Legg, Bundon, Dickson, Howe & Misener, 2016). Other definitions of legacy include ‘something handed down or received from an ancestor or predecessor’, (Macquarie Dictionary, 2006) ‘an inheritance’ (Soanes & Stevenson, 2008) ‘a birthright or heritage’, (Free Online Dictionary, 2010) ‘a form of bequeath’ or ‘that which is left behind’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2009).
As noted earlier, the definition from the working group for hosting international sport events, has also attempted to define legacy. They define it as “planned or unplanned impacts that occur or continue after the project concludes and that are a result of the project. These impacts/outcomes and their objectives should ideally be planned for; intentionally pursued prior to, during and after the project; as well as monitored and reported on” (Sport Canada Working Group, 2019).
While agreeing to use Sport Canada Working Group’s approach, it is important to recognize where this definition has evolved. Gratton and Preuss (2008), are recognized as two of the leading scholars in the Games’ legacy realm and they listed several positive characteristics of Games’ legacy including, among others, urban planning, city marketing and the promotion of cultural values. Another leading scholar and his colleagues, Cashman et al (2003), suggested that legacies be divided into six categories:
- the built and physical environment
- information and education
- public life, politics and culture
- symbols, memory and history
In both Gratton and Preuss (2008) and Cashman et al’s (2003) approaches, social legacies were considered, but the focus was on infrastructure and economic returns. The reason for this is likely because, as noted earlier, political desire is often the ‘driving force’ behind event bids. Examples include a government’s desire to attract new investment and develop infrastructure such as telecommunications, transportation and housing. More recently, however, has been an increased focus, and perhaps recognition, of the social value of sport (Dryeson & Lleyellen, 2008). As but one example, Girginov and Hills (2008) argued, when referring to London’s bid for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, that the most important legacy, but one which was very difficult to create and sustain, was to ‘inspire the country’s people to be more physically active’ (p. 2092). The new focus on social legacies has also been seen in Canada at the community level with smaller sport events. Jeske-Crane (2019) in Adrenaline Magazine, noted that “after an event, as organizers are gauging success, they naturally focus on traditional economic markers. And to be sure, sold-out competitions and hotels, and busy restaurants are a sign of success. Lately though, organizers are also more intentional about their event’s social return on investment, or SROI—in other words, besides money, what other social good does a sport event bring to the host community” (Jeske-Crane, 2019)? Grant MacDonald, President of Halifax-based GM Event Inc. elaborated on this noting “We’re further advanced in the measurement of financial indicators,” and “measuring social returns is trickier and doesn’t have a cookie-cutter approach” (Jeske-Crane, 2019). Jeske-Crane (2019) further noted that the City of Calgary has attempted to define Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology as “a principles-based approach that values change for people and the environment that would otherwise not be valued. It assigns monetary value to traditionally non-valued things such as the environment and social value.”
Misener et al (2013), also reflected on the ‘new’ focus on social legacy and suggested it may be the result of an increasing attention on the “triple bottom-line” valuation processes described earlier. Here city-states seek to broaden the value of hosting sporting events beyond economic impact (Carlsen & Soutar, 2000; Preuss, 2007; Smith, 2009). Supporting this contention, Sherry, Schulenkorf and Chalip (2015) edited a special issue of Sport Management Review on Managing Sport for Social Change, and in it, demonstrated that the empirical social change agenda had infiltrated the sport management space. Their collection contained articles showing that sport was being used as a ‘hook’ for social inclusion (Forde et al. 2015), cultural cohesion (Edwards, 2015), education (Bruening et al., 2015), gender equity (Chawansky, 2011), reconciliation and peacebuilding (Donnelly et al., 2011) among others. “The articles in the special issue sought to move the debate forward, proposing a shift in thinking from understandings of sport as an automatic creator of social change to one where verifiable social change may be an outcome of sport, under the right conditions” (Misener et al, 2019).
The burgeoning importance of social legacy was also recognized by Field and Kidd (2011) who published an edited collection following the hosting of a conference at the University of Toronto titled ‘Forty Years of Sport and Social Change, 1968-2008’.
The conference demonstrated keen interest in the value of sport and the role it played in social change from a number of different theoretical perspectives. The impetus for the collection was the landmark year of 1968 which had signaled a force of social change in terms of freedoms, equality and human rights. In that year, there were numerous examples of sport being used as a platform to advocate for social and political change, including: the anti-apartheid movement that succeeded in barring South Africa from the 1968 Olympic Games and African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos offering their ‘Black Power Salute’ during their medal ceremony in Mexico City Olympic Games (Misener et al, 2019).
Social change then was noted as not being new but perhaps the recognition of its’ value and ability to be planned for.
As noted earlier, the IOC has also reframed their understanding of legacy to include a greater focus on the social impacts. In March 2019, during an online presentation, Michelle LeMaitre the Head of Sustainability and Olympic Legacy presented IOC’s expected Games’ legacies. LeMaitre (2019) identified six legacies including social development through sport, human talent and innovation, economic development and governance, culture and identity, natural environment enhancement and Infrastructure and urban development. Of these, the most pertinent to social legacy was perhaps social development through sport, which was then subdivided into increased confidence towards the future, strengthened inclusion and participation of women, ethnic groups, disabled, LGBT and other minority groups, social cohesion, national pride and education through sport. Arguably, other legacy goals that relate to social outcomes include human talent and innovation and culture and identity.
The United Nations has also waded into this discussion of Games’ legacy through the intersection of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sport. The SDGs that relate to health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, and peace could certainly be considered social legacies of hosting sporting events (Higgs, 2018). As detailed in Misener et al (2019)…
…UNESCO’s Article 5, 5.4 also highlights major sport events and the responsibility of local authorities, sports organizations, commercial organizations and the media to ensure a sustainable legacy for the hosting community with regard to the financial cost, environmental and social impact, the post-event use of infrastructure and the effect on participation in sport and physical activity. The charter goes on to highlight in Article 12, 12.3: International co-operation and partnerships amongst public authorities, sports organizations and other non-governmental organizations being crucial to reducing existing disparities between and within States in the provision of physical education, physical activity and sport (UNESCO, 2015).
This link between sport events and the UN Sustainable Development Goals was highlighted at the 2019 Sport Accord hosted in the Gold Coast, Australia where Sport Event Denmark hosted discussions on how sport could contribute to these goals (Pavitt, 2019a).
Thus, part of our challenge in understanding and helping communities understand how to plan for social legacies is that there is not a universally clear and accepted definition of legacy itself. This is, in part, due to complications related to language, terminology such as sustainability and parallel research agendas in sport development and finally differing theoretical approaches.
The IOC recognizes in their review of legacy planning the difficulties from a language perspective, which is certainly relevant in a Canadian context. The IOC notes that…
…in French, legacy translates to “heritage”, while heritage translates to “patrimoine”. Further, legacy and heritage are not synonyms in English and French, and many languages use the same term to express the two ideas. In general, heritage is commonly used when referring to historical, cultural and natural assets we inherited from our ancestors and we transfer to our descendants; while legacy is more commonly used in the context of something material or immaterial left after a company, person, event or project is gone (IOC, 2018).
The various understandings of legacy are also complicated by a recent focus on ‘sustainability’ for sport event organizers. Sustainability and legacy are certainly interrelated and complementary, but to many they are also distinct. For some, sustainability refers to environmental initiatives, but for others, it crosses into social legacies. The IOC, for instance, suggests that “legacy refers to the long-term benefits, or outcomes, of putting the Olympic Movement vision into practice, (and) sustainability refers to the strategies and processes applied in decision-making to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts in the social, economic and environmental spheres” (LeMaitre, 2019). The overlap of legacy and sustainability was also evident in the Canadian Sport Tourism’s Sustainable Sport Event Template (Duffy, 2013). Here, it was suggested that the most commonly accepted definition of Sustainability was from the 1989 World Commission on Environment and Development developed by the Brundtland Commission (Duffy, 2013). Duffy (2013) then went on to suggest that applying sustainability principles to sport event planning and decision-making meant: “managing the environmental, social and economic impacts and opportunities and ensuring enduring legacies provide meaningful benefits”. Specific social legacies within this definition could then include inclusion, accessibility, diversity and equal opportunity, and human rights among others. The caveat here is that the terms sustainability and legacy are sometimes used interchangeably but for the remainder of this report only the term legacy will be used, thus building upon the Sport Canada Working Group’s definition referred to earlier.
c. Sport for Development
Another stream in which the discussion of social legacy and sport has occurred is within the sport for development and peace literature (e.g. Hayhurst, 2009; Black, 2000). This has perhaps become popularized through the United Nations Sport for Development and Peace Unit and the International Olympic Committee’s co-optation of this agenda through its Social Development through Sport pillar. However, conceptualizations of social change achievable through sport, not unlike the understanding of social legacies from hosting sporting events, have often been unclear, with assumptions made about what social change means and how the specific characteristics, or qualities, of sport can advance a social change agenda. Again, similar to research on social change and sport event legacy, few scholars in sport development have situated their understanding of social change in empirical work, instead making broad assumptions about positive outcomes. Commenting on the weaknesses of these approaches, Bovaird et al (1997) drew attention to the notion of ‘hypothetical chains’ where too many assumptions were made about the ability of sport to produce positive social outcomes. Boivard et al (1997) further argued that advocates of sport, and those who enjoy participation, value it and, simultaneously, presume others will too. However, if one of the assumptions (the links in the chain) breaks down, the entire project is undermined (Misener et al, 2019).
The idea of using sporting events to leverage a city’s strategic vision was originally proposed in the early 2000s and has only recently been discussed in more detail within the sport management literature. Chalip et al (2017) for instance have pointed out that….
….scholars and practitioners, embracing the idea of leveraging, are perhaps confusing the idea that leverage is a means to create a legacy”. Chalip et al (2017) suggested, instead, that there are subtle but important differences in the two concepts. Firstly, legacy puts the event at the center of the discussion with the frame of reference for evaluation at post-event reporting. This limits the applicability, opportunity, and scope for the local community. Leverage, on the other hand, emphasizes the strategic goals of the opportunity and evaluation which centers on how effective these activities are to create outcomes, regardless of the event timeframe (Misener et al, 2019).
Secondly, legacy is typically centered on the components of the event, often with an event organizing committee being largely responsible for them.
In the leveraging model, the strategic orientation of emphasizing synergistic relationships with the event-related resources are central with external partnerships and alliances helping drive the programs and processes. This does not mean that events are not involved, but the depth and breadth of the strategic vision extends beyond the scope and timeframe of the event itself, thus necessitating external partnerships and alternative evaluation criteria to understand the legacies (Misener et al, 2019).
At the local level, leveraging which some might also consider to be strategic planning for an event will thus differ from what many have referred to as legacy planning because it focuses attention on the means to obtain desired economic, social, and/or environmental objectives through integration of various different events into the host community’s overall ‘product and service mix’ (Chalip, 2014). A destination’s ‘event portfolio’ may therefore include a variety of events such as festivals, concerts, and conventions which along with the sport events work together (Sant, Mason & Hinch, 2013). Whereas ‘legacy planning’ focuses on one event and the outcomes the event might create for the community, event leverage focuses on the community and the ways that it can integrate each event together. These are different in ways that are subtle but important in practice (Taks, Chalip & Green, 2015). On a global level this is perhaps taking hold and, in part, has resulted in the IOC reinforcing that ‘the Games must fit the City instead of the City fitting the Games’. Using a leveraging approach also allows for event hosts to become more proactive in planning for desired outcomes rather than passively assessing impacts post-event and hoping for positive results from one off sporting events (Chalip, 2004, 2006; Misener et al, 2019).
Thus, while much has been discussed and debated regarding legacy and sport, much remains unresolved and in particular as it relates to social legacy. In an attempt to assist with this process De Rycke and De Bosscher (2019), produced a conceptual framework for understanding the potential societal impacts triggered by elite sport. They did not focus on event hosting, per se, but they did include it within their review of elite high performance sport. Here they recognized that “when facing the challenge of justifying investments in elite sport to the public, sport policymakers increasingly tend to advocate elite sport’s development, stating that a wide range of societal benefits will ‘trickle down’ (p. 1).
Games Legacy Criticism
De Rycke and De Bosscher’s (2019), comments thus begin the next section which will review some of the criticisms of the current understanding of legacy. Kerr and Howe (2016) also highlighted the difficulty in formulating a universal understanding of legacy in their chapter “What do we mean by Paralympic Legacy?” as have other authors including McCartney et al. (2010), Grix and Carmichael (2012) and Weed et al. (2015).
Of these varying criticisms are many themes. The first is that although many studies claim to measure impact, only a few were based on the theory of change principles. ‘Impact’ alone implies a causal relationship between intervention or action and a change in something (Thornton & Ecory, 2011) but this doesn’t mean that the impacts are positive. But the reality, is that scholarship on sport and social legacy has tended to overemphasize the positive societal impacts and turn a ‘blind eye’ to the negative ones (Sant & Mason, 2015).
A second concern is that empirical evidence regarding social impacts from sport events are typically inadequate and fragmented (Van Bottenburg, 2013; Funahashi et al., 2015; Frick & Wicker, 2016) and provide mixed and contradictory results (Frawley, 2013). This may have resulted from the varying existing definitions of event legacies and all of them not providing specific duration of the impact, instead suggesting that the effects are experiences ‘after the event’. The existing literature has very few examples where events are evaluated for a long period of time and therefore it has remained unclear whether long-lasting legacies can be associated with sport events (Bob & Swart, 2010).
A third criticism is specific to civic pride which is often described as a potential legacy. Much of the evidence regarding the benefits of sport events is their ability to create euphoria, enhanced national pride, and unity (e.g., Heere et al., 2013). Elite sport, in particular, has also been identified by De Rycke & De Bosscher (2019) as providing occasions for the positive public expression of national values, pride, collective unity, identity and nationalism (Coakley, 2010; van Sterkenburg, 2013; Elling et al., 2014). The difficulty is that the well-intended rhetoric about the social outcomes of sport events are generally hoped for and desired, as opposed to being planned for (Chalip, 2006), and much of the research is anecdotal (Smith, 2009).
There are of course many other aspects that are assumed to accrue from sport events and criticized for perhaps not being as positive as once thought. Examples include international prestige (Heere et al., 2013), diplomatic recognition (Merkel, 2013), a ‘feel good’ factor (Hallmann et al., 2013), increased levels of sport participation (Weed et al., 2015) and economic impacts (Downward et al., 2009).
There is also another stream of research that points to several negative impacts on society from sport events and high performance sport in general. Examples here include neighborhood gentrification (Kennelly & Watt, 2012), doping (Connor et al., 2013), governments hosting major sporting events that run over budget and create a government deficit (Preuss, 2007) or becoming outlets for nationalism which can fuel rivalry and aggressive behaviour (e.g. Armstrong & Giulianotti, 2002; Billings et al., 2013; Chopra 2014). Other examples of negative legacies are when facilities being built and not sustained, otherwise referred to as ‘white elephants’.
These examples of the negative legacies are likely the result of what Misener et al (2019) noted as the focus on spectacle, security and crowd control rather than enhancing interactions, and “economic impact rather than social outcomes potential of the events process” (Dwyer et al., 2000; Kim & Uysal, 2003).
Müller (2015) had further suggested, the ‘event syndrome’ can lead to events being viewed as a ‘fix’ for urban problems, skewing destination development priorities. This can then result in an environment where the event is largely disconnected from the community and fails to meet any of the needs and desires of the local citizens, going against the leveraging principles discussed earlier. As a result, the voices of community members are typically marginalized, reinforcing or exacerbating existing power relations (Misener et al, 2019).
As but one example the BBC reported that almost three out of four people believed that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games would bring no real benefit to the host country. Of the 2,000 adults questioned across the UK, just one in five, for instance, mentioned that the Games would inspire them to exercise (BBC, 2008). Many others questioned the legitimacy of figures used to demonstrate financial legacy of the Games and others suggested it was simply a colossal waste of finite public funds that could be better spent on those that were more vulnerable.
The challenge then is that, all too often, event bid promoters promise substantial positive impacts but fail to offer a means to deliver on these for the local communities. But this does not mean that there are NO opportunities for social legacies from event hosting. Far from it. In fact, the potential of legacy has helped fuel the agenda of the event legacy literature which has been reviewed herein. Knowing the criticisms, however, should help us avoid potential pitfalls. As many scholars have demonstrated, there is potential to influence event processes so that communities can have social legacies from the resources and opportunities presented by the event (e.g. Clark & Misener, 2015; Misener & Mason, 2006; Schulenkorf & Edwards, 2012; VanWynsberghe et al, 2006). If events are to influence the social change process, a critical consciousness needs to be present and resources available to support transformative actions that challenge broader social structures and power dynamics. In short, the available literature is fragmented, anecdotal and often provides contradictory results but there is hope for using events as catalysts for great transformative social change.
Practical Application of Sport Event Legacy
We have reviewed the theoretical and academic efforts to understand social change, impact and legacy from hosting sporting events. Now, we will highlight and examine some examples of where attempts have been made to implement these principles at the community level.
A challenge is that in the past, it has really only been the mega events such as the FIFA World Cup and Olympic and Paralympic Games (and other large multi-sport events) that have had a budget to properly study the impact of their events, but this makes it sound like only the large events have the time, budget, or human resources to deliver social legacies. For that reason, we have tried, where possible, to find examples with regards to the impact of smaller events because we recognize that this resource will be used mostly by these communities.
In Canada, the focus on social legacy appears to have followed the significant cuts to amateur sport following the Dubin Inquiry and the Ben Johnson doping scandal at the 1988 Olympic Games. As a result, the Federal government appeared to download responsibility of sport development to the Provinces with funding being contingent on “a series of planned externalities, such as urban regeneration, economic and social outcomes and improved national and civic pride” (Smith, 2014; Green, 2017; in Misener et al, 2019).
Using Sport Canada Working Group’s working definition of legacy, we will now address the practical applications of where previous host communities have attempted to, or achieved, “positive impacts that foster improvements in an individual’s circumstances, opportunities, engagement, awareness, and overall health, particularly those of under-represented groups.” From this definition, and as described earlier, Sport Canada then delineates the benefits of social legacies which will be used as sub headings to help us better recognize the impacts thus far. These include positive impacts that foster improvements in an individual’s circumstances, opportunities, engagement, awareness, and overall health, particularly those of under represented groups. These are then further sub divided into two major categories: increased awareness of healthy lifestyles and options and increased participation, engagement and opportunities for targeted groups which include indigenous people, persons with disabilities, women / gender, multicultural, and youth.
It is the final two categories, increased awareness of healthy lifestyles and options and increased participation, engagement and opportunities, that we will now use to better articulate previous and planned for legacies from sporting events. We also recognize that Sport Canada Working Group’s definition of legacy also includes a separate category of community legacies that include positive impacts on the place that improve or increase its sustainability, capacity, amenities and or accessibility. We have tried to separate these but they often overlap. We also acknowledge that the Sport Canada Working Group included many other objectives beyond the two listed below but for our purposes we will focus on increased awareness of healthy lifestyle options and increased participation, engagement and opportunities for targeted groups.
a. Increased Awareness of Healthy Lifestyle Options
Examples here include in Russia, where 7 of the 11 host cities for the FIFA World Cup showed positive trends in the Quality of Living ranking (2018 FIFA World Cup, 2018). The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, as presented in their Final Report, noted that remaining funds resulted in the launch of Get Set’s Road to Rio, encouraging physical activity in schoolchildren ahead of the 2016 Games.
Social legacies related to health can also arguably be related to environmental sustainability which Sport Canada has listed under community legacies. The 2019 Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, for instance, delivered significant local and global impacts from an environmental perspective. Five tons of food was converted into 7.5 tons of biogas and 52% of all waste from the event was recycled. Trams and buses were free for athletes, officials and spectators and bikes provided by the city to personnel at the event cycled more than 15,000 kilometers in total (Gillen, 2019a). Other environmentally related social legacies were found to result from China hosting the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Health Legacy of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games: Successes and Recommendations’ was launched by the WHO and the city of Beijing detailed the impact. The Beijing Olympic experience showed that it is possible to advance a public health agenda by capitalizing on the attention generated by the Games among government agencies and the society at large. WHO's China representative Michael O'Leary also commented that the book's findings stress the need to plan well ahead and to establish clear roles and functions for the various agencies involved in partnerships if legacies are to occur (sport-city.org, 2008).
The social legacy here resulted from when opinions on environmental sustainability change. “It’s about changing our habits as a society for the better” (Amos, 2014).
Other social healthy lifestyle related social legacies can include those for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the United Nations (UN) have signed a letter of intent aimed at promoting the contribution of sport to sustainable development. Alison Smale, the UN under-secretary general for global communications, and Toshiro Muto, chief executive of Tokyo 2020, signed the letter on a UN visit to Japan's capital. They agreed to promote the contribution of sport to sustainable development and, more specifically, work together to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN's 17 SDGs are a worldwide call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and create peace and prosperity. There will be a drive to increase the understanding of the SDGs among the Japanese population and the UN's events and media platforms will be promoted to increase knowledge of the links between the SDGs and sporting events. Through the Games, we can help to raise awareness of global issues and bequeath a sustainable society to the next generation (Gillen, 2019b).
Other studies, meanwhile have suggested that the connection between hosting sporting events and the improved health of the host community are dubious. McCartney et al (2010) conducted a systematic review on ‘the health and socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events’ between 1978 and 2008 and concluded that there was little evidence on their benefits for the population of the host country. The same conclusion was made by “two Health Impact Assessments, in London (LHC/LDA, 2004) and the North East (NEPHO, 2006), of the health-related potential of the 2012 London Games” (Weed et al, 2009, p. 14). Murphy and Bauman (2007) also argued that the “health potential of major sporting and physical activity events is often cited, but evidence for public health benefit is lacking” (as cited in Weed et al, 2009, p. 14).
b. Increased Participation, engagement and opportunities for targeted groups.
Within this category appears to be four themes in so far as examples of social legacies from sporting events. These include accessibility, awareness, participation within society (versus in sport only) and volunteerism.
Accessibility for targeted groups has been an area where prior and future sports games’ hosts have noted opportunities for social legacies. As an example of the connections between infrastructure and social legacies, the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts in Russia identified that 31 railway stations in host cities were reconstructed to meet accessibility regulation standards. Accessibility is another social legacy that hosting events for persons with disability can address. Tokyo, when bidding for the 2016 Summer Games, reported that their Games would be an accessibility showcase. “Already regarded as one of the world’s most barrier-free cities, Tokyo is making a series of major improvements for people with disabilities as part of its 10-year transformation plan, ‘Tokyo Big Change’. Every Metropolitan subway station in Tokyo’s transport system was already equipped with universally designed toilets with 88% of stations equipped with lifts and/or wheelchair access slopes. This was designed to then increase to 100% by 2016. Non-step buses would become standard issue for the entire municipal fleet and the principles of universal design would be applied to roads and other infrastructure” (Tokyo2016, 2009). Madrid’s 2016 bid also reflected on accessibility legacies from the Paralympic Games, which would use a transversal concept in design and building. The installations, accommodation and transport would all be designed for mass use and there was particular attention given to the high performance Paralympic Sports Centre, which would offer new opportunities, not only to Paralympic athletes, but to all people with disability (Gamesbid.com, 2009).
Tracy Dickson, a Professor at Canberra University in Australia noted that one of the International Paralympic Committee’s four broad areas of legacy and long-term impacts in the Host City, region and country is “accessible infrastructure in sport facilities and in the overall urban development” (IPC, 2017, p. 37). Ideally, this would result in “every resident of the city and every visitor must be able to fully enjoy all activities that constitute the Paralympic Games experience” (IPC, 2017, p. 38). The IPC has clarified that accessibility and inclusion, particularly at Games-time, is dependent upon the combination of a range of factors including those related to strategy and operations, technical implementation, organisational issues and educational actions (IPC, 2017, p. 39). Recent research has demonstrated, however, that even at Games time, the Paralympic experience has not been fully accessible. An example of this was for volunteers at the London 2012 Paralympic Games (Dickson, Darcy, & Benson, 2017). The knowledge management and knowledge transfer, not just between Paralympic events, but also from the event to the host community, policy makers and key stakeholders, has also been noted as being poorly planned and conducted (Blackman, Benson, & Dickson, 2017). This has then resulted in future events not being able to learn and leverage off previous Parasport events to deliver accessible event experiences (Dickson, Darcy, Johns, & Pentifallo, 2016). Areas for future research could therefore focus on how accessibility could be built into the design and delivery of the Olympic Games, and not just the Paralympic Games (Legg et al, 2016).
Improved accessibility to indigenous persons is another potential legacy from hosting sporting events. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games are perhaps best known, in so far as planned legacies, with infrastructure upgrades to the Sea to Sky Highway and Canada Line rail system from the airport. But other legacies could include the purposeful inclusion of the Four Host First Nations from the bid phase and this arguably took significant positive steps towards reconciliation and inclusion. A collaboration with the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Aboriginal Sport Circle, VANOC, and the NAIG 2008 organizing committee also produced a set of educational resources featuring Aboriginal Olympians (written in English, French and three Aboriginal languages). Like the 2000 Games in Sydney, there was a concerted effort to highlight Aboriginal culture in the ceremonies and on the medals and there was a First Nations Snowboard team that was funded and profiled. The 2010 Paralympic Games also resulted in significant legacies including a ‘2010 LegaciesNow’ program that focused on British Columbia becoming the premier travel destination for people with disabilities, older travelers and those with accessibility needs (2010LegaciesNow, 2010). The 2020 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax have also identified a social return on investment as building awareness and appreciation for Indigenous culture (Jeske-Crane, 2019).
From a participation perspective, legacies could relate to increasing people being active and thus more involved in society. The difficulty however is finding evidence to support this assumption. In a literature review conducted by Brown and Massey for UK Sport, they note that there is a “paucity of research material on the sports development impact of major sport events” (Brown and Massey, 2001, p. 3 in MacAdam, 2011). “From a pure sport development programming impact perspective, the research is even less conclusive. Most accounts of legacy from past games focus on the facility legacy only. The programming legacies, as opposed to the hard bricks and mortar legacies of sporting facilities, are even more difficult to measure and attribute to the hosting of the major multi-sport event. But it is precisely these types of programming legacies that can differentiate a robust sport legacy from a weak one” (MacAdam, 2011, p. 50). MacAdam (2011) further pointed out that despite ambitious sport legacy promises for London 2012, critics argued that the Olympic Games had a “… negative impact of staging the games on sports participation in the UK in terms of funds diversion, lost opportunities and benefits distribution, as the present needs of some groups are sacrificed with promises to meet the needs of future generations” (Girginov & Hills 2008 p. 2097). Finally, MacAdam (2011) noted that the sports management expert Fred Coalter’s examination of the sustainable sporting legacy of London 2012 concluded that “most of the evidence suggests that major sporting events have no inevitably positive impact on levels of sports participation” (Girginov & Hills 2008, p. 2098).
Research by Perks (2015) has also suggested that there is little correlation between sporting events and increased participation in particular sports. In particular Perks noted that the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver had almost no impact on sport participation in Canada except for a small, short term increase in the Vancouver area. Where participation did occur, however, was through initiatives such as the Rona Fabrication program where persons within at risk groups were trained and provided employment building podiums thus developing skills for employment once the Games ended. A number of children’s school and inner city sport and recreation programs were also initiated as a result of hosting the 2010 Games.
The Russian government, meanwhile, noted that the number of registered soccer (football) players rose from 331 000 in 2011 to 750 000 in 2015 leading up to their hosting of the FIFA World Cup. The 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland meanwhile also identified and delivered social returns such as increased grassroots participation in golf, through government funding for introductory golf lessons for Scottish children.
Other studies that demonstrated positive relationships between sport participation and hosting include the following examples (Weed et al, 2009; Hindson, Gidlow, & Peebles, 1994: Hogan & Norton, 2000; Veal, Toohey, & Frawley, 2012). A difficulty with many of these studies, however, was that they are not based on specific evidence and are completed post hoc with a focus on anecdotal data. Several other studies, meanwhile refute this connection including Veal et al (2012).
While volunteerism is included under the section of community legacies by Sport Canada, it is argued that this can also be applied to social legacies under the auspices of increasing participation, engagement and opportunities for targeted groups.
FIFA World Cups, both past and future, have recognized the importance of social legacies though volunteerism. An example of social engagement was seen at the 2018 Games in Russia, for instance, which noted that 30,000 volunteers participated in hosting and this resulted in the creation of 15 new volunteer centers. The FIFA World Cup Women’s in Canada in 2015, meanwhile, also addressed social engagement through initiatives specific to social inclusion via initiatives that focused on accessibility, human rights, volunteerism, and national pride among others (FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, 2015). The Lethbridge 2020 Alberta Summer Games are also focusing on volunteerism. These Games will require upwards of 2,500 event volunteers plus 75 to 100 leadership volunteers and the social legacy here will include access to the volunteer database for future sport event volunteer recruiting. As well, the leadership volunteer positions will be filled by people from both sport and other fields of expertise who are looking for personal and career development opportunities (Adrenaline Magazine, 2019). Kerwin and colleagues (2015) also addressed the social impacts among small‐scale sport event volunteers. They focused on a four-day canoe/kayak event and suggested that the event provided social bonding opportunities needed to create a sense of community that then resulted in personal growth. At the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Mayor’s volunteering program for schools called ‘Team London Young Ambassadors’, engaged over 180,000 young people from 1,000 schools in social action. Finally, the creation of a volunteer movement in Greece has been argued to have resulted from the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2004.
Awareness that leads to increased participation, engagement and opportunities for targeted groups certainly appears to have been a place where sporting events have already addressed the importance of legacy opportunities.
The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, have listed several legacies including sport and health, urban planning and sustainability, culture, education, economy and technology, recovery from the great east Japan earthquake, nationwide programs, and global communication. While none of Tokyo’s legacies speak to specific social initiatives, culture and education is most likely the key driver in this realm. The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, meanwhile, have developed their own social legacy goals including the “achievement of an inclusive society where people respect and support one another irrespective of if they suffer from disabilities or not. Not only to familiarize disabled people with sports, but also to establish the concept of “Normalization” in a society. Improving accessibility throughout the city and installing a barrier free mindset, to make Tokyo a livable city for all people with or without disabilities.”
The International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) has also been recognized for their focus on Games’ legacy related to awareness and, in particular, their ‘Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone’ campaign, which showcased the employment legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
The digital campaign, produced in partnership with the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office and funded by BP and Bridgestone, won a UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Award. Launched in December 2018, to coincide with the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the “Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone” campaign featured three short films demonstrating how the London 2012 Paralympic Games contributed to one million more persons with disabilities securing employment in Great Britain. The films told the stories of several people who either played key roles in driving inclusive employment or secured employment following London 2012. By the end of January 2019, the three films had reached 67 million people on social media, been viewed more than 28.5 million times and generated more than 1.4 million engagements (Payne, 2019; Pavitt, 2019b).
Perhaps as a result of this has been an increase in employment for persons with disability.
According to figures released by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics, 3.85 million people with disabilities are now in employment, nearly a million more than five years ago. The Paralympic Games are the world’s number one sport event for driving social inclusion and together with the UN Human Rights Office, the Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone campaign highlighted the long-term legacies the Games have for persons with disabilities, IPC President Andrew Parsons said. Soon after the Games, research showed that one in three people, equivalent to roughly 20 million people, changed their attitudes towards disability (Diamond, 2018).
Other examples of Paralympic legacies include those from the 1996 Games held in Atlanta. Survey results following the Games suggested that households were more likely to purchase a product from a company that supported the Paralympic Games. This same study suggested that 52% of households paid more attention to advertising featuring people with disabilities with Bob Thanker, Vice President of Marketing for Target, suggesting that incorporating persons with disabilities was the single most successful consumer response they had ever received (Heller & Ralph, 2001).
The 2014 Winter Games host Sochi, Russia, meanwhile also promoted the potential legacy of hosting the Paralympic Games. In April 2009, preparations for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games were cited as helping initiate the work needed to bring Russia’s national legislation into further alignment with international disability standards. For instance, Deputies from Russia’s State Duma, together with representatives of leading public organizations, discussed Russia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In 2010 in a Sport Business report, Russian President Medvedev was further quoted as stating “A successful Paralympics will not be measured solely by ease of access at sporting venues. It will also be judged by the impact it has on the broader issue of social integration, both at home and in other countries. Sochi 2014 aims to break down psychological barriers and help assert those values enshrined by conventions on the rights of disabled people” (Sportfeatures.com, 2010).
The Special Olympics for persons with intellectual disability has also been recognized for their efforts to provide social legacies. In a Sport’s Illustrated article written on the 40th Anniversary of the 1st Special Olympics Games held in Chicago in 1968, the editor presented a Legacy Award to Eunice Kennedy Shriver for their athletes changing the world for people with intellectual disabilities. In the accompanying article, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was quoted as telling Shriver in Chicago in 1968, “you know Eunice, the world will never be the same after this” (McCallum, 2008, pg 58). Other examples of where hosting the Special Olympics led to social change included in Ireland which rewrote its antidiscrimination statues after the World Games were held in Dublin in 2003. In China, at the 2007 Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai, a crowd of 80,000 cheered as a video on the stadium scoreboard showed the country’s president Hu Jintao cavorting with a group of Special Olympic athletes (Legg, 2009).
Like other legacies noted earlier, however, claims are not always consistent or universally accepted. A major British charity launched an advertising campaign after claiming that 2012’s Paralympics in London did not change people's attitudes towards the disabled. Scope, who support people with disabilities and their families through practical information, carried out research which they claim shows people still feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities. "In 2013, life is really if tough if you're disabled," said Mark Atkinson, Scope's director of communications. "The jury's out on the Paralympics effect and at the same time, you're struggling to pay the bills and get the support you need to live independently" (MacKay, 2013).
How to Measure Social Legacy?
Criticisms aside, legacy from hosting sporting events has thus perhaps taken on “magical properties” (MacAloon, 2008, p. 2069) as it continues to feature prominently in the discourse of bidding for and hosting sport events, despite a lack of agreement on its definition or evidence. What is needed then are better assessments, and agreement as to definitions and breadth.
The last area of focus in this review of literature therefore is how to measure social legacies, recognizing both the increase in theoretical and practical interest and the corresponding challenge in both effectively and efficiently measuring nebulous and hard to grasp concepts. “Large-scale events undoubtedly present opportunities for the host cities, however, the determinate value of these is in how the opportunities are realized” (Misener, et al, 2019). Measuring these, however, remains a challenge, recognizing that accurate social impact assessments of events are missing, and measuring these impacts is extremely complex (Deery, Jago, & Fredline, 2012; Fredline, Deery, & Jago, 2013).
Bob and Swart (2010) noted that there are several approaches to examine and assess social legacy impacts. One such approach is the Balanced Scorecard Approach to event evaluation presented by Gratton et al. (2006). This approach examines the range of impacts associated with hosting a sport event, including social aspects. The Olympic Games Impact Program (OGI) is another example of systematically evaluating legacy impacts although as noted earlier, this approach was abandoned following the 2010 Games. The purpose of OGI was to measure the long-term impact of the Olympic and Paralympic Games through a consistent and comparable reporting system across all future Games but this was never consistently implemented. Moreover, it was intended to assist cities that were bidding for Olympic and Paralympic Games to identify potential legacies to maximize Games’ benefits. Over one hundred and twenty indicators measured the status of a range of environmental, socio-cultural, and economic dimensions of the host city, region and nation (Vancouver Olympic Committee OGI 2007). The IOC abandoned this approach, in part, due to the challenges in comparisons and accuracy of measurements. With Legacy being such an important aspect of the IOC’s future, however, great efforts have been made to better understand how it can be assessed and presently, the IOC suggests that Legacy be measured using the following guidelines:
- Identify the drivers of change related to the Games
- Analyze the influence of external drivers
- Analyze implications for different stakeholders
- Explain, in more detail, the causality link with the Games
- Define geographic reach (local, national, global)
- Define the duration of observation (when we will be able to see the full results of the initiative?)
- Quantitative analysis (measurement and indicators)
Using these suggestions, with the hopes of understanding the factors that cause social change, it may be possible to establish a causality with the Games and identify the existence of a structural change. A “driver” would be any factor that changes an aspect of a system. More specifically, an internal direct driver would be related to the hosting of the Games and it would originate from a Games’ requirement. An internal indirect driver would then be the acceleration effect of the hosting of the Games (i.e., it would have happened even without the Games, but in a different pace, or with a different scope). An external driver would not be related with the hosting of the Games and it may have happened even without the Games.
Using this approach and measuring the results of legacy initiatives would then help evaluate the level of success and check whether the targets have been achieved. All of these analyses would then require the involvement of experts who are often academics or official statisticians. And no this isn’t a plug to hire academics as consultants!
A caveat to all this, and what perhaps led to the end of the IOC using the OGI, is that an understanding of legacy may not be generalizable. Events are, by definition, unique to the location in which they are held and temporary. Therefore, an assessment of their long term impacts is fraught with uncertainties, multiple variables and subjective measure (Rose, 2002 in Preuss, 2007).
MacAdam (2011) suggested that another method of measuring the impact of social and community aspects was social impact assessment (SIA). The International Association for Impact Assessment, SIA noted that this “includes the processes of analyzing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its’ primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment" (Vanclay, 2003). As with many other suggested measure, however, the SIA does not come without its challenges. One example is that impacts can be felt over an extended period of time and place and therefore difficult to truly assess.
A final potential option just being released is evaluating sport legacies thought social return on investment as being proposed by Dr. Caitlin Pentifallo Gadd but this has yet to be fully explored.
We may also be smart to see how others are attempting to measure social legacy and/or social good.
Imagine Canada has published ‘The State of Evaluation in Canada: Measurement and Evaluation Practices in Canada's Charitable Sector’. This national report provided the first comprehensive look at how Canadian charities are measuring and evaluating their work, how they are talking with their funders about evaluation, and what enablers and barriers they are facing. In 2018, the report’s authors surveyed charities across Canada about their measurement and evaluation practices and through this research, discovered how the sector is talking about the impact of their work (Imagine Canada, 2019).
Recognizing the definitions, practical benefits and potential challenging in measurement our next step is to do just that, clarify next steps. The Sport Canada Working Groups have already proposed seven ‘Core Principles’ which will guide the hosting of future sporting events and will hopefully enable positive social legacies and we can use these to guide our discussions as to what next. The principles include:
- Hosting projects have impacts; those with public funding should positively impact
Canadians and their communities.
- The primary responsibility of a hosting project is successfully staging the sport event and meeting the related core obligations and requirements.
- Every dollar spent or activity undertaken presents the possibility of a positive impact and legacy.
- Bidding and hosting projects shall pursue positive sport impacts and legacies, with particular interest for sustainable legacies and for those contributing to the sport system.
- Bidding and hosting projects shall pursue positive social, economic, community and/or cultural impacts and legacies, consistent with their capacity and with the scale, scope and context of the event.
- Impacts and legacies shall be planned as far in advance as possible, with accountabilities and monitoring for the life of the legacy (where reasonable) identified early in the planning phase.
- Legacies shall be sustainable, soundly managed, and pursued in a collaborative manner that seeks alignment of the interests of relevant stakeholders.
Using these as caveats so that Games can act as leverage and catalysts for the purposes of meeting social legacy goals is now the next step in this process. What will now follow is an examination of practitioner’s views on how social legacies have been implemented.
As a result of this new understanding of social legacies we present a core set of principles to help host communities best prepare for and ensure social legacies.
- The first is coopted from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habit’s of Highly Successful people to “start with the end in mind”. Social legacy must be foremost during the initial bid process.
- The second principle continues with Covey’s guidance and which is “seek first to understand before being understood”. The concept of social legacies needs to resonate across multi-constituents and speak to the needs of the community.
- A third principle is to start with the "why.” Legacies need to be top of mind and a critical part of the bid value proposition.
- A fourth principle is to engage early, often, and have the right people at the planning table to identify the potential social legacies.
- Fifth, bid and host cities need to ensure adequate resources are assigned to deliver on the planned social legacies following the event.
- Sixth, host communities need to know their context. One size does not fit all.
- Seventh, host communities need to position social legacies on equal footing with other perhaps more typical Games’ legacies such as economic impact, infrastructure and facilities.
- Finally, host communities should move beyond a triple bottom line and perhaps develop a “quadruple bottom line” including social legacies, sustainability, economic and physical (infrastructure and facilities) impacts.
Conclusions and Assumptions
Social legacies from sporting events are increasingly important for host cities and those that fund the events. What appears to be happening with this increasing important and focus is a change in how the legacies are ensured and planned. Events now appear to be seen as things to be exploited and enhanced and thus used as catalysts to further social good.
A sporting event offers a unique opportunity to tap into seed capital to create new resources, programs, and opportunities. The critical shift here is away from a focus on purely the economic outcomes of the event to consider what other opportunities the event can present such as social legacies (Misener et al, 2019).
This review of literature has defined legacy, and presented ways in which it has been pursued both by academics and practitioners. This can now facilitate the development of a resource that communities can use to take an inquisitive approach to plan sustainable short, medium and long-term social legacies that leverage funding investments which can work collaboratively with the various stakeholders.
There are many benefits that motivate communities to host sporting events. To many, the most obvious, and easiest to quantify, are those associated with the economic impacts of sport tourism. In other instances, legacies of physical infrastructure such as improvements to local sport facilities, transportation infrastructure, housing, and new sport equipment are noted as the reasons why we bid and host sporting event.
Social legacies such as greater community cohesion, improved accessibility, additional community programming, enhanced volunteerism, greater sport participation by athletes and coaches and increased physical activity are just as relevant and important and require deliberate planning and expertise. Unfortunately, the resources and expertise of host organizations are often consumed with simple execution of the logistical demands of a competition and really, only mega events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games or FIFA World Cups have the organizational capacity to specifically target social legacies. As a result, smaller events are often hosted with limited thinking towards long-term social impacts for the host organization, sport or local community.
Our intent then is that we can help address this need and challenge by developing a resource that can enable local organizing committees to plan and execute activities and initiatives that create purposeful social impacts. This Social Legacy Project is thus aimed at developing such a resource.
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