Sporting Legacy: the conclusion

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The power of sport cannot be underestimated. It has, arguably, the biggest potential of all to change the world given its global reach. Sport is a universal language – different cultures, languages, and beliefs all come together to compete under the same rules – therefore it presents a unique opportunity for host nations to truly enhance their standing. In part 1 of this series we looked at the biggest sporting event of them all, the FIFA World Cup, and in part 2 we examined the legacy of the Olympic Games. Now, to conclude, I will summarise my thoughts on a more general level.

Sporting legacy summary

First of all, I will say that I clearly believe major sporting events can do far more on a basic level, and far more consistently. Having researched the topic at length, I believe the key is consistency. There are certainly some great examples where sporting events have created a positive change and left a worthwhile, lasting, legacy. However, there are other examples where the event has crippled the economy and left no legacy at all in terms of facilities and participation in sport.

For me, the most important thing is for the governing committees, such as FIFA, to responsibly choose host nations. A host nation that is not ready is a disaster waiting to happen, and plans should be forced to include the future of any new facility being built – or ensure that all new facilities are pop-up etc.

There is no doubt about it that hosting a major sports event is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some nations, particularly developing countries with emerging economies, so I can see why they jump at the chance. Highlighted in part 2, the Barcelona Olympic Games is a benchmark event that was a huge success, whilst in the UK events such as the cycling Tour of Yorkshire have really captured the essence of leaving a legacy.

Sporting legacy weaknesses?

The key issue of unused stadiums post-event is a long-running concern, one that needs to be addressed by each event’s governing body – in the two cases I have used, FIFA and The Olympic Committee. I think it is fair to say that the more organised the host country, the greater the legacy, and part of that is having a long-term plan for facilities and participation. Why build expensive facilities if they won’t be used after the event? It is costly, irresponsible, unproductive and takes up valuable space that could be used for something more worthwhile – such as housing.

Clearly, financing such expensive facilities is an issue in some instances. Highlighted in both the previous parts, the overall cost can be extremely crippling – particularly for weak economies such as Greece.

Final thoughts

If carried out correctly, hosting a major event can be a huge benefit for a country and city. Infrastructure can be improved, tourism boosted, positive reputation garnered and positive change gained.

With England due to be hosting the Rugby World Cup later on this year, it provides a prime opportunity for the Rugby Union to get their legacy plan perfected. England is well situated for an event given the excellent facilities already in place, but continued improvements in areas including promoting Rugby as a sport and grassroots Rugby participation can still happen.

Rugby’s own governing body openly admitted it could have been much better prepared for the hype and interest in the sport following England’s remarkable World Cup win in 2003. Jonny Wilkinson’s iconic drop goal is a sporting moment that will live long in sports fans memories. This year’s Rugby World Cup opens up with England facing Fiji at Twickenham, so let’s hope it is the start of an amazing tournament.

The Olympic Games in Rio 2016 provides Brazil with a fantastic opportunity to grow on the increased interest from the football World Cup, let us hope there are not the same, ugly protests prior to the event!

Success will obviously go a long way in leaving a legacy – will more people be inspired to take up long distance track running if Mo Farah wins gold, or if he comes last? I think most will agree with the former. Just like when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and Team GB’s recent success in the professional world of cycling, the young generation wants to be just like their sporting heroes: nations globally, therefore, need to empower and encourage them to do so. With half of the adults in the UK not participating in any sport, clearly, there is room for improvement.

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Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

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