Sustaining the Social Impact of Major Events: Two events discussing this in November…

Following on from a very busy summer of hosting, Birmingham played host to the Town Hall: Sport for development and major event legacy facilitated by the Sport for Development Coalition (SfDC) and support by Youth Charter.

An interesting month to be discussing social impact of major events, as on the one hand there had been a couple of months for people to digest the event activities connected to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (with many activities ongoing). On the other hand, it was in the midst of the run up to the FIFA Men’s World Cup hosted later in 2022 by Qatar.

The organisers of the Town Hall did a stellar job of bringing together an eclectic group of contributors and attracted a diverse audience. A full rundown of key takeaways from the event was published by the SfDC Birmingham 2022 Deputy Chair: Legacy ‘movement’ must become more diverse and inclusive | Sport for development coalition, plus generously recorded and shared the event via YouTube

On the ‘policy’ panel I contributed to, we discussed important questions connected to the role of bringing event-based, locally-based, nationally-based policies and practices together in a more coordinated fashion, especially around social outcomes.

The first intriguing question posed to this panel was:

“Obviously, we know that sport for development has a very big voice, and how can they use that voice to strengthen the relationship between legacy from this event, its aims and also sporting infrastructure in the community? How do you think that they can do that? It’s a big question. So whoever wants to tackle it first?”

Here is a short (and cleaned up) excerpt of how I answered the question (for the full panel and event, please access via YouTube above):

“Yeah, I’ll briefly start and then pass the mic over to Mike and Matt. I think we’ve already mentioned this point this morning. And this will not really come as any surprise but the responsibility side of things [around legacy], we’re seeing grow in the academically published discussion on events, in particular that more and more communities need to be embedded from the beginning decision making [to host an event]. So that is [across the whole event life cycle], even the bidding process. Birmingham was unique as they weren’t due to host and, therefore, coupled with the pandemic its planning and delivery was quite last minute and complicated. For example, politically, we’ve had a number of different national governments in [bidding, planning and delivery] time period of the event. So, taking into account all of this context, I think my reflections on the strength of the [sport for development] voice is that the SfDC and varying communities need to be embedded in the decision making from the start of an event’s life cycle… I would say decision making from the start, and that voice needs to be present at the table from the start.”

I brought this point up again, at an event also hosted in November in London titled, “Exploring approaches to sports diplomacy in Wales, partners nations and networks.” Although a different geographic context, sports event, and phraseology there is alignment to the points about the life cycle of an international sports events and ‘baking-in’ social outcomes and community voices from the outset. For more information about this event, Gavin offers a great overview here:

International sport events are a vehicle for delivering many things, to many destinations, and through varying different routes. I am looking forward to focusing more on the culture, inclusion, social, heritage sides in the coming months…

As ever, more to be discussed!


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