Olympic sustainability reporting and sport participation

Toohey, Kristine

In this paper I investigate the concept of sustainability, how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has introduced sustainability reporting through its Olympic Games Impact (OGI) program, and how this monitoring relates to sport participation. To be truly sustainable in sport each Olympic Games should ensure that the practice of sport for the host community, especially recreational sport, is... More

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    Summary
    In this paper I investigate the concept of sustainability, how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has introduced sustainability reporting through its Olympic Games Impact (OGI) program, and how this monitoring relates to sport participation. To be truly sustainable in sport each Olympic Games should ensure that the practice of sport for the host community, especially recreational sport, is improved and measured. This is important as the Olympic Charter specifically mentions promotion of ‘sustainable development in sport’ (IOC, 2011a, p. 15), rather than ‘through sport’. In 2000 the IOC, as part of its growing interest in managing its information about the impacts of its Games, initiated a new project, originally known as the Olympic Games Global Impact study (OGGI) to improve the evaluation of the overall impacts of the Games on the host city, its environment and its citizens, as well as to implement a consistent methodology to capture data pertaining to Games’ outcomes in the host community, region and nation. OGGI’s title was modified in 2007 and is now known as OGI (Olympic Games Impact). Its requirement is that ‘each Games organizing committee is to present its findings in a series of four reports (baseline, pre-Games, Games-time, and post-Games) that spans 12 years, beginning two years before Host selection and ending three years after the Games’ (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, 2009, p. 11). Before OGI any meaningful data regarding an Olympic Games’ sport’s participation sustainability was limited. A 2009 review of available research by Weed, Coren and Fiore, that investigated physical activity and health of the Olympic Games, concluded that ‘there was no reliable evidence to indicate that any Games staged to date had raised sport participation in the host community (Veal, Toohey and Frawley forthcoming p. 3). While the OGI studies can provide much needed and valuable information about how the Olympic Games can contribute to sport’s sustainability, their purpose and use need to be transparent and accountable, beyond the Olympic Movement. Further, as Munda (2003, p.16) cautions, a ‘sustainability policy exercise implies difficult decisions such as the choice of indicators, their policy prioritization and the choice of ideal values; such an exercise is not a technical issue only, it is mainly a socio-political issue’. Additionally, as studies of the links between recreational sport participation and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games demonstrate, sport participation in a community is dynamic and subject to varied and numerous influences over time. Hosting a major international sporting event is only one of these influences. Separating them is not a straightforward process. To fully understand the links data is needed that explains how participation is also impacted by the nation’s sport development and participation system, including its broader public policy initiatives and health promotion strategies (Veal, Toohey and Frawley, 2011). Thus, to be meaningful sustainability indicators for sport participation must indicate openly how they have taken these influences into account in their measurements.