This review considers the evidence for legacy from major sporting events. It looks across the four themes of the Commonwealth Games Evaluation Project (flourishing, sustainable, active and connected).

7. Connected

7.1 This section looks at evidence in relation to increases in cultural engagement, impacts on creative sectors and civic pride, as well as Games-related educational programmes. Cultural engagement refers to participation in cultural activities or attending or visiting a cultural event or place. The section also considers the impact that events can have on the perception of cities as a place for cultural events.

7.2 Although the Cultural Programme has been part of the Olympics for about 100 years, the idea of creating a legacy from major sporting events by increasing cultural participation is still relatively new. As a result, the evidence-base on this topic is very limited with a distinct lack of empirical data (Garcia, 2014) and the evidence which is available is heavily weighted towards Olympic events.

Increase cultural engagement

7.3 The limited empirical evidence prior to the London 2012 Olympics means that there are very few conclusions that can be drawn about the success and effectiveness of cultural events. Nonetheless, there are arguments that major sporting events can help to promote local culture (Cho and Bairner, 2011). Using the example of the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, they argue that major events should not be seen as an inevitable challenge to local culture but as an opportunity to strengthen the indigenous identity of the host.

7.4 There is evidence from Melbourne that the 2006 Commonwealth Games resulted in increased desire of residents to participate in community events (Insight Economics, 2006). The same study also found that 32% of people in the State (Victoria) reported a great or moderate increase in willingness to attended future arts and cultural events (Insight Economics, 2006). Nonetheless there is little evidence of whether these feelings affected long-term behavioural change.

7.5 The wider evidence for cultural engagement remains limited. Nonetheless, an OECD study found that Turin was able to harness the momentum of the Winter Olympics to help in an ambitious programme of cultural development. As a result, museum visits in Turin went up by 170% after the 2006 Winter Olympics compared to the three previous years (OECD, 2010).

7.6 The emerging evidence also suggests that attitudes towards London 2012 were generally favourable and a majority of people thought it would benefit the city. A large proportion of people surveyed in London rated the experience of the city hosting the Games very highly (Centre for Sport Physical Education and Activity Research, 2013). These findings suggest that during the Games and shortly afterwards, a 'feel-good' factor had developed, at least within London.

7.7 The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad took place over four years across the UK and involved an unprecedented number of activities and events across a range of different programmes and funding streams (Garcia, 2013). The available evidence on these programmes is by far the most comprehensive available to date, although given the timing of this review it remains relatively short-term in nature.

7.8 The events cut across all art forms and spanned the UK. Audience satisfaction surveys suggest that 80% thought the event exceeded their expectations and 58% said they are more likely to attend further cultural events (Garcia, 2013; see also Jackson, 2013). Other surveys show more modest numbers indicating they intend to engage more in culture (16% in March 2013 from GVA intelligence, 5.2% from Taking part survey, 12% State of the Nation Survey). Again however, it is not clear to what extent these perceptions of being inspired will translate into longer-term participation and attendance.

7.9 A study of young people's experiences of London 2012 found that 65% of respondents involved in the Games reported that they were more likely to join a local arts/ cultural group as a result of being involved and a slightly smaller proportion say they are interested in starting a new/sports culture group (Nielsen, 2013; Legacy Trust UK, 2013).

7.10 It is clear that the range of cultural programming significantly extended the geographic reach of opportunities to engage in the 2012 Olympics and related festivals. Evidence in relation to community engagement and major events cited above shows a mixed picture with some events relying on 'trickle down effects' and others explicitly planning to maximise community engagement.

7.11 According to surveys with artists involved, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad has also benefitted the creative sector. Artists report improvement of skills and professional development, new partnerships, and an increased national profile (Duggan, 2013; Garcia, 2013; Jackson, 2013). It should be noted, however, that these surveys tend to have small sample sizes.

7.12 The Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy (2013) remains unconvinced about the long-term impact of the Cultural Olympiad. Although it helped the Games to reach outside of London and created some temporary employment, it is unclear what distinct legacy the Cultural Olympiad will bring, they suggest.

Increase civic pride

7.13 Although much has been written about the link between major sporting events and civic pride, there are only a small number of studies which empirically address the question. Waitt (2003) conducted a longitudinal study two years before Sydney 2000 Olympics and in the year of the event. He found that support for the Games remained strong over the two years. Willingness to volunteer and sense of community showed substantial increases over the time period. Respondents who were most enthusiastic tended to be either families or people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

7.14 There is also some limited evidence that major sporting events can impact on intangible areas, such as providing a 'feel good factor'. Kavestos (2010) considered data from 12 European countries over 30 years. He found evidence of a small increase in life-satisfaction (the 'feel-good factor') in the period immediately following major sporting events. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (2005) also found evidence intangible factors can be important to the host population. A survey they conducted to gauge support for the bid to host the London 2012 Olympics found people in the UK believed that the intangible benefits of hosting the Games would outweigh tangible ones (such as tourism spending). Nonetheless more long-term research is needed to fully understand the scale and effects of these intangible benefits.

7.15 As discussed above in relation to improvements to the physical and social environment, there are also arguments that mega-events such as the Olympics have a negative impact on community networks and exacerbate inequalities. Commentators have highlighted these issues in particular in relation to the Beijing 2008 Olympics (Broudehoux, 2007) but also in relation to London 2012 (Fussey, 2011; Watt, 2013).

Perception as a place for cultural activities

7.16 In addition to increases to the perception of hosts as a place to do business and for tourism discussed in the flourishing section, there is evidence to suggest that major events can help to change the perception of cities as a place for cultural events. As with wider evidence on city branding, a fundamental role is given to the importance of the media in shaping the way the event is perceived (Smith, 2012).

7.17 This media coverage is often substantial across a wide range of events, though the size and type of the audience varies. The evidence from the Manchester 2002 suggests there is substantial media coverage generated from the Commonwealth Games. One study found an estimated 750 hours of TV media coverage reaching up to 1 billion people during the event (Cambridge Policy Consultants, 2002). Nonetheless the evidence suggests that by far the widest audience is reached by the Summer Olympics, with four billion people estimated view some of the London 2012 Games across various platforms (DCMS, 2012).

7.18 The strongest evidence for a positive transformation of a city comes from the Barcelona 1992 Olympics. In particular studies highlight the importance of the 'Barcelona Model' for urban regeneration, which highlighted local culture, and in particular the architectural legacy of artists like Gaudi (Degen and Garcia, 2011). Within this approach, the organisers of the Barcelona Games ensured that there was a long term focus on cultural legacy (Brunet, 2005). Nonetheless there are significant concerns about the applicability of the 'Barcelona Model' to other events (Herstein and Berger, 2013).

7.19 Belloso (2010) also argues that the 1992 Olympics Games played a key role in transforming the image of Barcelona. In particular he cites the positive transformation of the city as a place of artistic creativity. One example of this in practice was the 22@Barcelona Project that transformed little used industrial land into modern creative spaces for the knowledge economy. This helped to create a more modern and dynamic image of the city.

7.20 In addition, Boukas et al. (2011) find that the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens helped deliver a legacy of cultural tourism by reconstructing the city's identity and cultural heritage. They find that it is vital that Games should help to develop links between wider legacy plans and cultural heritage and tourism. As with Barcelona, the evidence suggests that in order to successfully improve the city's cultural brand, organisers must ensure that efforts are deeply rooted in the true nature of the cities culture.

7.21 On the other hand, there is some evidence that negative perceptions are possible where elements of events are not perceived to be a success. Some authors conclude this occurred in relation to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi where there were a number of media stories around preparedness for the Games. (Wharton, 2010). Therefore rather than automatically highlighting positive aspects of a city's and country's culture, there is also the potential for negative effects on reputation if coverage highlights perceived weaknesses.

7.22 Perhaps more commonly, the cultural components of major sporting events can be overlooked by the media. Looking at the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, Low and Hall (2012) found that there was very little impact outside of the host province. Given the often relatively low profile of cultural events, this can be a significant problem for hosts in trying to showcase their cities culture.

Enhance learning

7.23 Although many Games tend to put emphasis on education and learning, and many have their own educational programmes linked to the event, these are generally not well evaluated and there is currently little evidence with regards to their effectiveness (Smith, 2012). The Curriculum Pack, the educational legacy programme in the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, was among the least successful of the seven legacy programmes. It was not resourced sufficiently and it needed a clearer continuation strategy for after the Games and beyond (Smith and Fox, 2007).

7.24 Similarly, although Get Set, the educational programme for London 2012, managed to get 85% of schools registered and reached a deeper level of engagement from about 66% of schools. However, teachers expressed concern about how sustainable the benefits are in the long-term (Bunt et. al., 2011).


7.25 The evidence-base for the 'Connected' theme is limited. Although a cultural programme has been an integral part of Olympic activities for some time, the idea of creating a distinct cultural legacy is relatively new. As a result, apart from some early evidence from the London 2012 Olympics, there is little empirical evidence available on this aspect of the Games.

7.26 Nonetheless, the one area in this theme which has received significant attention is city branding. This shows that there can be a significant change to the perception of the host as a place to do business. This has most often been positive, with particular success in Barcelona, but there is also a significant danger that the Games can have unintended negative effects, or that the cultural aspects of the host can be overlooked by the media.

7.27 The emerging evidence from the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad shows that there was an unprecedented scope and variety to the projects. Thus far the evidence is mostly reliant on survey evidence, which has shown a broadly positive reaction to the events. Those who participated in cultural events have reported intentions to take part in future events, and surveys with artists also suggest benefits in terms of skills, new partnerships, and an increased national profile.

7.28 The educational outcome of using a major sporting event to enhance learning has not been sufficiently researched. It is therefore not possible to draw any firm conclusions in this area and more long-term research is needed.


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