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Sustainability and legacy myths in sport

Sporting events and initiatives need to consider their sustainability and legacy. This article takes a closer look.
It’s not just a Games, for a Games sake, this is a game changer. And we have to keep remembering that sport is just the beginning of it, but you’re supporting part of the stats long before the Games actually get into your country. So a lot of hard work, but oh boy is it worth it? The biggest legacy from the Gold Coast was the indigenous reconciliation. That was unbelievable. And I don’t think we thought it would work the way it did, but because we had buy in right from the very beginning with the Yugambeh community wanted to be part of this and showcase their country. And it took a while to get everybody to work together.
But once we got to the opening ceremony, and that was a terrific ceremony that they delivered. Using Yugambeh people right from the very beginning and there’s echoes on today because now the mascot a koala. He’s there. And they’re using him now to go round as an educational tool for the young people in Australia, to teach them about the indigenous history. This framework is the most detailed piece of work that we’ve ever had in our history, we always know that something you can do, but unless you can prove it, people just let it go. So we actually asked Price Waterhouse Coopers, to do a detailed piece of work for us.
And one of the key messages that’s come out from this is that the Commonwealth games consistently delivers a positive return to the public for the money spent, and it can reposition itself and transform a city when the correct approach is taken. Not just that you go in and try something you have to do the correct approach to get this right. And recent editions of our games, we’ve consistently provided an economic boost of 1 billion pounds from previous host cities. And that’s including an array of positive social and environmental benefits,which is so important to the country. So it’s not a case of just going in doing 11 days of sport and out, you’re actually working with them.
And you can actually prove this, and this Games value framework document is, it really is a very very good piece of work. And we actually have now passed it around various governments to let them see what the Games can deliver. The games have been a catalyst for positive change, and it’s mostly GDP. Also the employments during and after the games. It’s starts just before, but during and after the Games it comes up. 1 billion pounds for from previous host citie . 23,000 full time equivalent years of employment and a 3.2 return on public investment. But more importantly, it also strengthens trade, investment and tourism links.
25% increase in tourism, and we had a 1.5 billion global TV audience, that is pretty good going for the Games, and the trade deals and investmen, going through the games, and afterwards, it was over 400 million pounds More importantly, it supports the physical and social regeneration of the city. And if I give you two from Manchester, there’s a 23.5% decline in unemployment from the games in 2002 there. 700 affordable homes and 120 bed care homes for Glasgow 2014. And that’s, we’ve really never done a village before where we’ve actually had to have social housing care homes for the elderly. And we accelerated by 474 million pounds of investment in Glasgow 2014.
Most importantly for me, is a social cohesion and it encourages individuals to
adopt positive behaviours.

As Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, explains in the video: “It’s not just a Games for a Games sake. This is a game-changer. And we have to keep remembering that sport is just the beginning of it.”

The delivery of a legacy

Most major sporting events focus on the delivery of a ‘legacy’. They must now have a conscious, credible and defined legacy policy, programme or plan that meets public expectations.

Invariably, major sporting events will claim to have boosted sports participation, reduced the event’s carbon footprint, attracted more tourists, boosted a city or country’s profile and reduced the cost of staging future events. All of these claims require testing, comparing and evaluating.

Funders and participants expect such claims to be evidenced, especially as there are significant costs involved and not all outcomes from such events are always positive.

Legacy potential

The Olympics and other major sporting events raise important questions around ‘legacy’ potential. The ability to put on such events is uneven across the globe.

The promise of urban or rural regeneration is realised by some events, but the extent to which sporting success or failure impacts the wellbeing of host nations needs to be considered.

Critics argue that communities are often displaced, and ordinary people are excluded from involvement in the planning and ownership of legacies, e.g. the Rio 2016 Olympics or FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Legacies can be difficult to capture and evidence – and one always needs to consider the human costs.

Legacy Examples

International Inspiration was the sport and development legacy project of the London 2012 Olympics.

Evaluation reports of the South Africa World Cup and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games highlight the following key points:

  • Robust evidence of impact is limited, varies greatly and tends to focus on the short-term
  • Evidence to support the idea of economic growth and employment is mixed and there is no clear evidence of an automatic trickle-down effect from hosting a major sports event and positive legacy outcomes
  • There is a need for long-term planning and perspective
  • To have a legacy, it is important to have good organisational capability and community engagement

The Commonwealth Games Value Framework is an example of good practice, designed to help the Commonwealth Games Federation, host cities and other stakeholders assess the costs and benefits of hosting the Games.

It is important to be realistic about the impact that an event or initiative can or should generate.

Furthermore, it is now regarded as essential for events to not only have a sustainable legacy but also to adopt a human rights-based approach in all stages of the event cycle.

Considering the impact, legacy and exit strategy of your programme or policy, not just the desired end goal, needs to be part of your wider implementation plan and discussion with partners. Your initiative may not last forever, so you may need to plan for the end, as well as implementation.

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Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes

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