Updated: Mar 27
Today is Olympic Day, a day celebrated all around the world. It was created to promote participation in sport, while also promoting the Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship, and the Olympic ideals of contributing to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport.
What does Olympic Day have to do with sport policy? The Olympics are a lot more than a sporting event. While it is not the be-all, end-all of sport, it is seen as the highest achievement that an athlete can attain. Personally I believe that the Olympics symbolizes a more peaceful world, one where there is less conflict and sport is part of that equation. I think that the Olympic Games has a role in increasing world peace and governments can leverage their policies to utilizing the Games to their full advantage through policy.
The Canadian federal government has a hosting policy that recognizes “the growing interest in hosting sporting events not only as a stimulus to sport development, but also as an economic and community development tool."
Many of the positives of hosting the Olympics Games are:
Improvement of public spaces, infrastructure, venues and facilities
Economic growth, diversification and job creation
Community pride, spirit and culture
Athlete and sport development
Three of the new builds that would have taken place under a Calgary 2026 bid were:
A multi-sport complex (field house)
It was identified by the city to build a new field house and the mayor said that “It has long been our largest unfunded social infrastructure piece.” Since the 2026 Olympic bid failed the referendum, the city now must foot the bill entirely on its own for this project if they want it built. I think that this is a good example of an Olympic bid identifying a community need and using the bid to get it done. Hosting international competitions can be used to have long desired facilities built that will benefit the community.
I’ve often advocated on Sports for Social Impact for a more cross-department approach to using sport in policy to achieve goals. Improving public spaces and increasing park space that allows for citizens to be more in . An example of this is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where they have incorporated parklands, waterways and playgrounds that are free for everyone to visit everyday. I visited the park in summer 2019 and it was a beautiful public space. These parks are easier to access for all people who live close by.
The legacy and community impact that sporting events like the Olympic Games can have is much bigger.
Sport policy is much bigger than sport. It is about community development, in ways that aren’t even related to sport. Improving public spaces allows for communities to gather and host events, or even to just sit outside in nature. Thus increasing mental wellbeing for citizens.
Sporting venues can also be used for other things like concerts, drive in theatres during COVID-19, and other draws for communities to get together.
When designing bids for sporting events from Canada Games, to the Olympic Games, designing a vision for how these spaces can benefit the community long after will strengthen the bids.
International events can be used for sport diplomacy, and increasing social capital of nations. Sport diplomacy helps build a more peaceful world by strengthening bonds between nations, maximizing trade, tourism and investment opportunities, while also using sport for international development. In addition, sport can contribute to the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Olympic Day is about participation in sport. But it is also about so much more. This Olympic Day let us think about how sport can be used to facilitate a better community and a better world for people to live in.