Mega Sporting Event Legacy: A Cost or Return on Investment?

Over the next couple of years, Canada is preparing to host some incredible mega sporting events, including the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in six different host cities across the country (Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Moncton, Ottawa, and Winnipeg). This is an exciting time for Canada and an excellent opportunity to create a lasting legacy within our country. In terms of legacy, there are some important questions that need to be considered such as: What legacy opportunities are going to occur before, during, and after these large-scale events? Will Canada make the most out of hosting these mega sporting events in order to ensure a positive impact for our country? What will the overall legacy of these games be?

In the context of major sporting events, legacy is often defined as, “Irrespective of the time of production and space, legacy is all planned and unplanned, positive and negative, tangible and intangible structures created for and by a sport event that remains longer than the event itself” (Preuss, 2010).

Legacy cube

Within this definition, there are also various different types of legacies that can surround major sporting events, including (Cornelissen, Bob, Swart, 2014):

  • Economic legacy

  • Social legacy

  • Environmental legacy

  • Sporting legacy

  • Cultural legacy

Often, when countries are hosting a major sporting event, they get consumed by the excitement and immediate preparation for the event. They lose sight of the long-term objectives that were the main reason for pursuing the event in the first place. Therefore, focusing on the events legacy is every bit as important as the event itself. Host cities and countries should never assume that a successful event will automatically bring forth positive change and long-term benefits. Creating a positive and sustainable legacy requires extensive planning, strong leadership, and maintained commitment from all of the parties involved.

Hosting a large scale sporting event has the potential to bring about a lot of positive change if done properly, such as (Cornelissen, Bob, Swart, 2014):

  • Improving a countries global image

  • Improved infrastructure

  • Long term economic improvement

  • Increased number of jobs

  • Improved society and social behaviors (Ex. Promoting environmental and green practices, increasing physical activity, etc.)


The upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland are an example of mega event legacy:

Some of the positive results seen so far from Glasgow include:

  • There are 50 national legacy 2014 programs and counting

  • The games have helped Scotland secure 37 high profile national and international events

  • 150 community sport facilities will be created across Scotland by 2016

  • Over 250,000 school children are benefiting from “Games on Scotland”, which is the official educational program for the games

  • The “Active Places Fund” has already supported over 100 projects, helping build and improve community facilities

  • More than 750 teachers have been trained to support disabled young people in physical education classes

  • Scottish companies have won 69% of contracts associated with the games

  • The £5M Young Person’s Fund will provide 2,500 young people with work experience

The list continues: See for the complete list

In closing, a successful games should not be measured just by the event itself. It should be measured in jobs, the success of businesses, increased physical activity, improved infrastructure, environmental awareness, increased sustainable facilities, and the overall impact on the city or host countries community. Therefore, Canada needs to embrace the opportunity of hosting these mega sporting events and make them a return on investment instead of a cost.

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