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How cities use major sporting events and build a lasting legacy

Debbie Jevans, CEO of the Rugby World Cup 2015


Charlie Macey, 25 June 2014


While every country/city that bids for a sport mega event claims there will be a significant economic legacy this session looked to assess the evidence to support this contention. As well as touching on the economic benefits, Debbie Jevans - CEO for the Rugby World Cup 2015 – emphasised that any legacy had to focus on lasting participation in sport. She felt: 'major events inspire people to get active as a result of the feel good factor' and she believed the Rugby World Cup's would also increase volunteering.

She argued that although spectacles such as the Olympics has left varying effects on the general population it was too early to assess whether this would have a lasting impact. Nevertheless, there had been some immediate extremely positive impacts such as after the Paralympics in September 2012, 80 percent of people said that the Paralympics had changed the way they viewed disability. From this perspective, Mrs Jevans was keen to highlight the social value of the upcoming World Cup next year.

The following panel session with sports management and sociology academics took a more structural approach to analysing the costs and benefits. Larissa Davies from the Sports Management Department at Sheffield Hallam University noted that regeneration legacy has been under research because: Firstly, legacy as a concept is very difficult to measure; Secondly, there are different approaches as to how to define legacy – does it constitute 5, 10, 20 years or even longer?; and thirdly there are both positive and negative case studies of regeneration – whilst the Barcelona 1992 Olympics where often cited as a success, there are numerous other examples of where governments were unable to generate a substantial return on social investment.

The participation figures released in the Sport England's Active People's Survey were discussed as a potential measure of legacy success. Professor Simon Shibli, the Head of Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, highlighted statistical flaws in the measurements and thus the justifications for hosting events on these grounds. His pessimism on the sustainability of major sporting events was shared generally despite Mrs Jevans' optimism. Until better/more research is conducted into the wider legacy implications, the panel felt future sporting spectacles in the UK are likely to continue to divide opinion.