UN and IOC keeping myth alive
Tight relations between the UN office for Sport, Development and Peace and the IOC keeps alive one of the oldest myth in sport – that big events are boosting sport participation
The second edition of the "International Forum on Sport, Peace and Development" jointly organized between UN office on Sport, Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and IOC hosted in UN headquarter illustrated tight relations between UNOSDP and the IOC. Unfortunately, it also became a platform to promote the old myth about big events being a “booster” of participation in sport.
Physical inactivity is the fourth leading death risk according to the World Health Organisation and clearly one of the most effective health promoting tools in the hands of the sport sector is to increase participation in sport and physical activity. However, to be a serious stakeholder in health promotion, we have to build our propositions on evidence and there is no evidence that big events are very efficient in raising participation in sport and physical activity.
“The sport organizations that work seriously with utilizing grassroots sport and physical activity in health promotion know that it is crucial to base our promises on evidence. Our partners in the health sector want facts and evidence not assumption and myths. It can consequently damage the recognition of the whole sport sector as a serious partner in promoting health, when such myths are conveyed by a high profiled institution as the UN office for Sport, Development and Peace”, says ISCA president Mogens Kirkeby.
The big problem is that parts of the sport sector continuously try to keep the old myth alive
Quite a few researchers have studied the effect on participation from big events and most of the conclusions are that “no positive effects” can be verified. In fact, it seems that in some cases the high focus on the elite sports events is counterproductive when it comes to the level of participation. As example the participation levels from before and after the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and the Commonwealth Games 2006 all show lower levels of participation in sport and physical activity after the event compared with before the games.
The missing correlation between the big events and increase in participation is quite clear, but it is not a problem in itself. The big problem is that parts of the sport sector continuously try to keep the old myth alive.