The non-infrastructural impacts of the Olympic Games on socially excluded groups in the host community : a comparative scoping study from Atlanta 1996 to Beijing 2008

Minnaert, Lynn

(IOC Olympic Studies Centre Postgraduate Research Grant Programme 2009)

This study examines the impact of the Olympic Games on socially excluded groups in the host community : more specifically it focuses on non-infrastructural programmes and initiatives that are directly linked to the Olympic Games. Academic discussion of the socio-economic impacts of the Olympic Games on the lives of socially excluded groups has exposed a divide between supporters and critics of... More

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    Summary
    This study examines the impact of the Olympic Games on socially excluded groups in the host community : more specifically it focuses on non-infrastructural programmes and initiatives that are directly linked to the Olympic Games. Academic discussion of the socio-economic impacts of the Olympic Games on the lives of socially excluded groups has exposed a divide between supporters and critics of the use of mega sporting events to achieve social goals. Where some see the Olympics as mere commercial boosterism, others argue that mega-events can act as catalysts to achieve social transformation. So far, academic studies have tended to focus more on the infrastructural changes to the city fabric, than on the more intangible, non-infrastructural effects. Research evidence of the effects of such programmes (such as sport initiatives, volunteering opportunities, training and employment schemes etc) of low-income groups is even scarcer, and when it exists often only discusses one host city or programme. This scoping review has aimed to collect data from the last 7 Olympic cities (Atlanta, Nagano, Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Turin and Beijing) to examine these non-infrastructural social impacts. Secondary data (academic, Olympic and other publications) were combined with email interviews with researchers, politicians and social organisations with specialist knowledge of the particular host cities. For each city between 13 and 26 data sources were used, of which at least 5 primary sources. The study has shown that for many Olympic cities, social sustainability was not part of their aims, nor of the organisation of the Games. This was the case for Nagano, Salt Lake City, Athens and Beijing. For Turin, they were fleetingly mentioned with environmental sustainability. Atlanta and Sydney are the cities in the sample that made social aims the most explicit in their candidatures, but only Sydney seems to have made substantial efforts to turn these aims into practical programmes and initiatives. Generally, it can thus be said that the awareness of social sustainability is fairly low. This is maybe not entirely surprising, since it has received much less attention than environmental sustainability in recent years. When looking at the Olympic Games evaluated in this study, a clear trend towards greater emphasis on environmental sustainability can be noted. The fact that the IOC places explicit importance on this form of sustainability is no doubt a very important factor here. If the IOC would be willing to place that same importance on social sustainability, the effects may be immediate - social sustainability will no doubt be important for Rio 2016, so these Games could be a perfect opportunity to add more concrete recommendations to the existing Agenda 21.