Elite Sport and/or Community Sport. What is the real relationship?
Posted: Tue, 15 Aug 2023 09:00
Tim Hollingsworth in his recent article (https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1139482/legacy-major-sports-events-blog) expresses his passion for the continuation of the Commonwealth Games claiming that the recent decision made by the state of Victoria is wrong. Today he will have seen that Alberta has also cancelled their bid for 2030. Many of us I'm afraid would perhaps disagree with Tim and suggest it's finally time to stop trying to justify the funding of elite sport events based on their impact on community sport participation or tackling inactivity. If we want to use our very limited resources on elite events because they promote competitive sport, raise national profile and pride, expand our national influence or even regenerate the local and national economy then let these be our arguments, but there is no evidence I have seen to show that these events directly change the long term behaviour of the most inactive and most deprived members of our community.
Tim based on his Birmingham experience argues that "There are real sustained benefits that can be achieved especially for the local communities around the Games once the highs of the athlete performances have calmed and the travelling Games circus left town." He acknowledges the failures following the London Olympics saying "I don't think we did this effectively enough around London 2012. While there are so many elements of that triumphant Games to celebrate, the participation legacy was still based on the 'build it and they will come' approach. And where excellent programmes such as Sport England's £135 million ($171 million/€156 million) "Places People Play" were in place, they were perhaps not effectively targeted enough at communities of greatest need."
So his argument appears to be that the 2012 games failed to drive increased participation because Sport England and the sector in general failed to capitalise on the games by not focusing on the most deprived communities. It's actually impossible to argue with this given sport in general for decades has failed to focus on the most deprived communities and that's why inequalities have remained fundamentally unchanged since Sport for All was the first clarion call of the Sports Council.
Tim clearly was keen to do it differently in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and describes some of the things tried to ensure the games made a real difference in certain communities. "In particular, we built a different approach through our £35 million ($44 million/€40 million) investment in the physical activity and wellbeing legacy for Birmingham 2022. The priority for action here was on the most inactive and underrepresented parts of the local community. Two examples spring to mind – the successful engagement of the local community in the planning for and construction of the Sandwell Aquatic Centre and how our Commonwealth Active Communities fund used the fact of the Games to be a real catalyst for local engagement and delivery - particularly among the sizable Muslim communities of the West Midlands."
However, how successful was the Commonwealth Games at delivering an increase in activity levels in those who are inactive? Some have argued that the success was very limited and if the money spent on the bid and hosting of the Commonwealth Games was fed directly into Active Partnerships or into the community there would have been a greater rise in activity levels. Therefore, this suggests that elite events have a minimal impact on community sport and might even detract attention away from their importance.
To read more about Tim Hollingsworth's views on this topic, follow the link to his blog: