Major research into legacy following large sporting events

Health Science

Dr Niamh Murphy, from the Centre for Health Behaviour Research at Waterford Institute of Technology, along with Prof Adrian Bauman from Sydney University, have investigated the legacy left behind after nations host large sporting events.

Dr Niamh Murphy, from the Centre for Health Behaviour Research at Waterford Institute of Technology, along with Prof Adrian Bauman from Sydney University, have investigated the legacy left behind after nations host large sporting events.

In spite of the rhetoric, there is little evidence that major Games have helped to inspire populations to become more active. However, it is possible to learn from what has happened in previous Games and capitalise on the spectacle of the event to leverage greater engagement in physical activity.

In a recent interview on BBC Radio, Dr Murphy explains her research.

More about the research

Nations host big events for prestige, political salience, tourism and commercial gain and, in order to appease the taxpayer for bearing the considerable cost, legacy promises are made. The legacy arguments relate to economic gain, social and volunteering benefits, regeneration, and sporting or health gain (continuing elite success, development of more sports facilities, encouraging participation in physical activity and school sport).

Dr Murphy and Prof Bauman have examined the theories underpinning the notion of sporting and physical activity legacy after big events, and there is greater support for their value as ‘bread and circuses’ than real public health gain (Murphy and Bauman, 2007).

Similarly, post-London 2012, they examined the evidence on whether a population level physical activity legacy was likely (Bauman, Murphy and Matsudo, 2013).

For the 2014 Commonwealth games in Scotland, the challenge is to host a great circus, where those on the margins of society participate, and try to leverage this for longer term health gain. There is a good road map, and some reasons for optimism, but without urgent action, moving beyond the rhetoric of legacy will be a challenge for Scotland.

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