Looking to the Future of Sport and the Games
All eyes were on the future at the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires. Speakers discussed the future of sport itself, what the future fan might look like, and how the process of hosting the Olympic Games is evolving to become more flexible, cost-effective and focused on ensuring a sustainable legacy for the host city, region and nation.
Organisers of upcoming Games joined the conversation about the innovative new approaches to hosting that they are taking. Tony Estanguet, IOC Member and President of Paris 2024, discussed how Games organisers in Paris view the opportunities offered by hosting: “In our country we really want to put sport at the heart of society in a way that the platform of the Games can benefit everyone.” This more symbiotic relationship between “event” and “environment” is a key part of the vision for how the Games should be bid for and hosted now and going forward.
Shu’an Yang, Vice-President of Beijing 2022, spoke about how the venue legacy of Beijing 2008 was now serving the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in the spirit of Olympic Agenda 2020’s the New Norm. Indeed, all of the upcoming host cities will be benefitting from the New Norm, a set of 118 reforms developed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and aimed at transforming the way the Games are delivered.
There were lively debates on the types of changes needed to keep the host experience viable, and acknowledgment of some of the disappointments and challenges of the past. Participants had frank exchanges about cost and addressed questions about resource use and perceived corruption, while also exploring the many benefits that hosting mega-events like the Olympic Games bring, such as increased national pride, better infrastructure, health improvements and additional investment.
Andrew Zimbalist, Chairperson and Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College, is a frequent critic of the Games, but he acknowledged during his session that the movement towards Olympic Agenda 2020 and the New Norm is a positive step, though he called for certain structural reforms of the reforms themselves. Holger Preuss, Professor of Sports Economics and Sports Sociology at Johannes Gutenburg University in Mainz, spoke about the economics of the Games and highlighted that while it is important to discuss the costs, we must not forget the benefits, which allow us to understand what is being created for cities and their citizens. Chris Dempsey, who headed No Boston Olympics, also participated in a panel on hosting the Games, where he exchanged opinions with former organisers like Paul Deighton of London 2012, John Furlong of Vancouver 2010 and Mariana Behr of Rio 2016.
And what kind of sports will future cities be hosting? Technology, urbanisation and other changes are altering the landscape of how sport is even defined. Esports are a big part of these changes, and participants in the discussion included several leaders and competitors in the fast-emerging discipline. They discussed how even though the “anchor of physicality” of more traditional sports can be missing in esports, it’s still about intense competition. There was also some exploration of the challenges facing the sport, like harassment in the gaming community.
Fans are already having an evolved experience witnessing and experiencing events of all kinds, including the Games. Panellists at the Forum emphasised how the optimal experiences today and tomorrow are “digital and seamless”. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are increasingly part of being a “spectator”, and fans from all over the world are connected in new ways.