Headlines: May 21st, 2010

A new study has found there is insufficient evidence that major multi-sport events benefit the health and economy of people in the host country. A report published on bmj.com today calls on those responsible for the London Olympics to measure whether benefits are justified by costs.

They want decision makers to ensure that robust evaluations are in place for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years later so that it is clear that costs “can be justified in terms of benefits to the host population.” The report says decision makers often bid for big global sport events because they claim these generate a wide range of benefits for the host population, including improvements in employment, skills, the economy, housing, national and local pride, the environment and sport.

Lead author, Dr Gerry McCartney, a public health specialist from Glasgow, questions whether events like the Olympics really help local people. He and a team of colleagues have reviewed 54 studies assessing the health and socioeconomic impacts of major events. They conclude: “There is not sufficient evidence to confirm or refute expectations about the health or socioeconomic benefits for the host population of previous major multi-sport events,” and add: “future events such as the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics, or the 2014 Commonwealth Games, cannot be expected to automatically provide benefits.”

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Mike Weed from Canterbury Christ Church University says the London Games will cost 150 pounds for everyone in the United Kingdom. He argues: “The risk for the UK population is not that we will not get the benefits for our 150 pounds a head investment in London 2012, but that there will be no robust evidence of what we have paid for.”