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Legacy: Before, during and after

In this article, Dr Alana Thomson explains what sport event legacy is and what planning is needed for long-lasting outcomes and benefits.
Wooden blocks with letters spelling Legacy
© Griffith University

What is legacy? Legacy is the term we generally use to describe the longer-term benefits and consequences of hosting a major sports event1.

When you think of legacies of major sport events, what comes to mind? Perhaps the new infrastructure communities benefit from such as event venues, transport services, road upgrades, community sport facilities, accommodation buildings etc, or perhaps potential new opportunities for businesses and tourism. Let’s explore how legacies are created.

It has been identified1 that event legacies should be considered as being a combination of:

  • Planned or unplanned – many major sport events now have plans or strategies to maximise their chances of securing positive and sustainable outcomes through the hosting of events, but there is often still room for other unplanned or unintended outcomes to occur through the hosting of major sport events.
  • Positive or negative – while we hope that the hosting of major sport events is positive for all stakeholders involved, there are still chances where stakeholders might be negatively affected through the hosting of events in both the short and longer-term. The major sport event research also shows us how these events affect different people in different ways, and where an outcome might be perceived positively by some stakeholders, others might not share the same perspective.
  • Tangible or intangible – Some legacies you can see and touch (tangible), like sports facilities and infrastructure, and some of them, you can’t see or touch (intangible), even though you know they are there, like the increased sense of community and feelings of belonging you experience as a participant, volunteer or spectator.

More recent research has also highlighted that event legacies are:

  • Contextual – as each major sports event is hosted in a different city, at a different time and organised by a different team of people, no two events will deliver the same legacies2.
  • Temporal – while a major sport event might provide a spectacle for one to two weeks maximum, the overall event lifecycle of bidding, planning, delivery and wrap-up, may span between seven to ten years, meaning there are many potential points of activation before, during and after, where a host city and its delivery partners can implement initiatives to secure legacies3.

Planning for legacy

The idea of planning for legacy and dedicating resources to legacy, beyond those committed to the delivery of an event, has become increasingly important over the last two decades. We have seen major sport event governing bodies and host city governments aim to demonstrate to the tax-paying public that the huge investments in sport events and related infrastructure lead to much broader reaching and longer-term outcomes beyond the couple of weeks of sport and spectacle.

In fact, the potential legacies are now a key motivator for potential host cities to bid for major sport events and event bids are increasingly accompanied by sophisticated plans and dedicated legacy resources to activate the opportunity of an event before, during and after the couple of weeks of sport.

Your task

Through this course we have got to know a lot about the GAPS Programme. From what you now know, can you identify potential legacies from the program which reflect:

  • planned and unplanned outcomes?

  • positive or negative outcomes?

  • tangible or intangible outcomes?

Share your ideas in the comments below. You may also be interested to read the article in the ‘See also’ section below.


  1. Preuss H. The Conceptualisation and Measurement of Mega Sport Event Legacies. Journal of Sport & Tourism. 2007;12(3-4): 207-228. Available from:

  2. Thomson A. et al. Conceptualising Sport Event Legacy. Event Management. 2013;17:111-122. Available from:

  3. Rogerson R. Re-defining temporal notions of event legacy: lessons from Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games. Annals of Leisure Research. 2016;19:497-518. Available from:

© Griffith University
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