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Studying the impact of sporting mega events


Studying the impact of sporting mega events

“Sporting events don’t necessarily cause impacts, they are platforms or catalysts which can be used to lever impacts, but they in and of themselves do not cause those impacts” - Simon Shibli, director, Sports Industry Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam.

Simon Shibli

highlighted a number of areas of research related to various local and international sporting events. He began by addressing the issue of economic impacts by asking the question, what makes a big event in economic terms?

Economic impact
The research shows that events that are spectator - driven (e.g. cricket and athletics) are often associated with higher economic impact. In contrast those events that are largely competitor driven (e.g. swimming and badminton) often result in economic impacts that are overwhelmingly driven by those taking part in the event. Whilst Simon notes that there are outliers such as the popular marathon events that do produce a relatively greater economic impact, most spectator driven events display relatively modest economic benefits.

Simon therefore warns against taking an over enthusiastic view towards the economic impacts of events, noting that “they’re drops in the ocean...the vast majority of international events that we stage have fairly modest economic impacts”.

Simon poses an important question: whose responsibility is it to realise the economic impacts that can arise from these sporting events? He argues that partnerships between the national government bodies (NGBs), organisers and local authorities, who have a vested interest in the economic impact of these events, would enable better leveraging of them to benefit the economy.

Environmental impact: the dark side of economic impact
Simon explains that you often hear that an event is carbon neutral; he argues that it simply isn’t the case once spectator consumption, accommodation and other costs associated with travel and stay at the event are factored in. This means, in relation to sporting events, “we can mitigate but we can’t eliminate” the environmental impacts.

Social impact: the inspiration effect
Interestingly, Simon highlighted that attending live sport events has a greater inspiration effect in terms of an individual intending to do sport, than the inspiration effect of someone who watches the sporting competition on television.

On average, 57% attending live sporting events stated their intention to take up sport. In contrast, UK Sport found a 20-25% inspiration effect for those watching on television. However, the inspiration effect decreases with age and the more active you are the more inspired you are. Importantly, the research also shows that over the long term, once again, behaviour change is concentrated with those that are already active. This adds to the weight of questions regarding the effectiveness of sporting mega events to meet these event legacy promises centred on encouraging sedentary populations into an active lifestyle.

'Strategic intent'
Sporting events hold a number of opportunities, not least for the host city and nation. However, it is important that ‘good news’ stories do not provide a smokescreen for organising committees and sporting bodies that have not, or cannot, deliver pre-event promises presented as legacies. As Simon says, ‘strategic intent’ is needed to lever events, alongside ‘evidence led policy’ rather than ‘policy led evidence’.



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Mark James Johnson


Friday, July 17, 2015 - 00:00