Today the global sports industry is estimated to be worth between Є350 billion and Є450 billion and in the last 12 months we have seen some incredible examples of why these figures are likely to keep increasing. The recent Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, for example, were the most expensive ever at an estimated cost of Є36 billion and with Russia investing a further estimated Є720 million in their elite sport programmes to capitalise on the Games.
But why do cities make such huge investments to host mega sporting events such as the Olympic Games? The main purpose is to raise the international profile of the host city. To be able to capture the attention of the world’s media and viewing public for a two week period would be impossible without the backdrop of an international sporting event. The success in raising the profile of Barcelona as a destination for business and tourism as a result of the 1992 Olympics is a good example. However, this key profile benefit must now also be supported by extensive legacy initiatives. The Sydney Olympics in 2000 were the first to acknowledge the role that a positive legacy could have after the event. Increased participation levels in recreational sport and urban regeneration were just some of the benefits Sydney was able to achieve. Legacy was formally incorporated into the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter as a host city bid requirement in 2002. Previously the IOC’s notion of sustainable legacy only referred to environmental considerations. Positive benefits must now be achieved by host cities and host countries which will last well after the event has closed. The London 2012 Olympic Games are a clear example of this relatively new concept. Indeed, the regeneration of parts of East London for the London 2012 Olympics would not have been possible without the hosting of the Games. This event is a good example of how the hosting of a mega sporting event provides a focussed opportunity to invest in facilities and infrastructure in a specific area of a city and that would not normally be achieved in such a short timeframe. Significant upgrades in public transport infrastructure are common areas of legacy benefit – so called ‘hard legacies’.
The best way to boost the chances of medal success for a National Olympic Committee is also to successfully bid to stage an Olympics in their home country. Academic studies have not only demonstrated the increase in medal success for a nation at their home Olympics but also the positive impact the awarding of an Olympics can have for the host country at the Games that occur both before and after their Games.
A further legacy benefit which can often be overlooked is education – an example of a ‘soft legacy.’ This applies not only to volunteers and management workers involved with mega events who have the opportunity to develop their skills in a way which would not be possible in normal industry sectors, but also with wider educational projects. The LA84 Foundation is an excellent example of such an educational legacy. It was created as a result of surplus funds from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics - arguably the first truly commercial Olympics. From this Foundation, everything from youth sports programmes to library archive projects have been successfully developed.
The high profile nature of modern sports event management and the investment levels involved in delivering such projects has also led to a growth in specialist sectors of the sports industry. It is now normal to find specialist sports law, sports consultancy and sports finance firms that would not have existed forty or fifty years ago.
With this growth in specialist areas of the sports industry come new challenges. It is now essential that graduates who wish to enter such a complex sector, and with the responsibility to deliver such demanding legacy benefits as those seen above, have the necessary skills to be able to cope with such a broad range of issues. That is why sports management education programmes, such as the FIFA Master offered by CIES (International Centre for Sports Studies), are now more important than ever before in helping graduates prepare for these challenges. Sports management education must now be multi-disciplinary in order to help students develop their understanding of such a new and evolving concept as legacy and that can only be a good thing.
The increasing influence of legacy as a concept can be seen in the growth of academic literature on the subject over the past few years. Indeed, full legacy benefits may not be visible until many years after a specific mega event. As the concept of legacy develops, so too will our understanding of it. What is clear, however, is that mega sporting events must now achieve far more than just ‘good memories’.
By Vincent Schatzmann, General Secretary of CIES (International Centre for Sports Studies), based in Neuchâtel, Switzerland