How can sports events be catalysts for social development?


It was a few years ago that the main question being asked was whether sports events could impact the social realm of the host city or country. Now that several examples of such social impacts have been documented, event organisers are moving beyond the question of whether it is possible, toward the more pertinent question of how it can be done.

The literature suggests that an event – large or small – has the potential for a positive social impact or benefit from serving as a host city or region. Sports organisers have also experimented with creating social impacts during sports events, which has helped shed light on best practices. However, in general, social impact analysis is still fairly new and practical evaluation of the social impact of sports events remains in its earliest stages.

Through their vast experience with clients in the sector, GlobalSportsJobs partner TSE Consulting has identified three key reasons why sports events can be strong catalysts for social development. Every sports event holds three key ingredients that can be exploited to maximise social impact:

1. Focus:

One of the most powerful things about a sports event is its ability to focus attention and excitement. The key is turning social processes into exciting, energetic projects. For example, rather than running a programme year after year with no particular end, it could run in the build up to an event with the focus on a certain date. Consider if a major bike race were going to a city: instead of funding health and wellness programmes that don’t attract much attention or participation year to year, city officials could opt to focus time and resources launching a fitness initiative in the city that culminates with a big event (e.g. bike race for kids, 5km or 10km run, etc.) that coincides with the major bike race.

2. Positive link:

All sports events, by definition, showcase physical well-being and role models for an active lifestyle. For example, elite-level sporting events feature high-performance athletes who can be role models or spokespeople for social platforms. Even smaller events, where the level of sporting ability may not be as strong, can highlight the health benefits of recreational physical activity.

3. Sense of community:

All events feature a sense of community. Whether it is the community of athletes, the community of sports fans or the community of volunteers, communities will be developed through the process of hosting an event. An example could be targeting groups who are underrepresented or often excluded in the community – minority populations, the elderly or individuals with special needs – to develop a volunteer task force.  This would increase involvement and strengthen the sense of community through social inclusion.

These three commonalities create a strong platform for linking social objectives to sports events.

This article was originally published by our partner TSE Consulting and was titled “How can sport events be strong catalysts for social development?” To read the original article in full click here.

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