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The Olympic Games have the power to significantly change a community, its image and its infrastructure. Through their scope and profile, the Olympic Games provide major opportunities for positive improvement and significant legacies. These opportunities can include environmental, economic, social as well as sporting and urban development. Learn more about specific bid legacies here
IOC President Thomas Bach states: “Society today demands more from sports organisations and sports events. We need to respond by embracing sustainability and delivering positive, long-term legacies for the local population. Olympic Agenda 2020, our strategic road map for the future of the Olympic Movement, addresses this issue in the context of the Olympic Games with an entirely new approach to the host city selection process. We put a stronger focus on sustainability, legacy, and transparency and make it easier for host cities to tailor Games that meet their needs rather than trying to fit a template. Cities have to identify post-Games legacy uses for all permanent venues to ensure that Games-related investments deliver benefits for years to come to the city and region and its people.
What makes the relationship between Olympic sport and sustainability so special is that sustainability is not simply a ‘nice to have’ it is an indispensable part of the Olympic philosophy, since the effective transmission of our values depends on a broad concept of sustainability.”
What is Legacy? Click here to find out more
Read the Olympic Games Framework - produced for the 2024 Olympic Games
Legacy provides the host city a unique opportunity to not only improve its city’s infrastructure, but also improve the attitude of the people living in it by incorporating the Olympic values into its policies and educating people on the importance of excellence, respect and friendship. As the core event of the Olympic Movement, and a significantly influential and high profile event in its own right, it is appropriate and vital that all stakeholders in the planning and operations of the Olympic Games take fully into consideration the impacts of their actions and policies, and the potential legacy opportunities that emanate from hosting the Olympic Games.
“Legacies are the lasting outcomes of our efforts. They bring to life the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. … Creating sustainable legacies is a fundamental commitment of the Olympic Movement. It is our obligation. … Every city that hosts the Olympic Games becomes a temporary steward of the Olympic Movement. It is a great responsibility. Host cities must ensure the continuity of a unique and universal event. … It is also a great opportunity. Host cities capture worldwide attention. Each has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase the celebration of the human spirit. And each creates a unique set of environmental, social and economic legacies that can change a community, a region, and a nation forever”. Speech given by then IOC President Jacques Rogge to 2010 Legacies Now in Vancouver BC on 27 February 2008
The Olympic legacy of the host cities is made up of, on one hand, the tangible elements such as the Olympic venues and infrastructures and, on the other, intangible factors such as national and civic pride, cultural awareness and recognition, environmental consciousness, new and enhanced skills for the local workforce, and community involvement. In recent times, the scope has been expanded from a primary focus on a host city, to throughout the host region and country.
Tangible legacy can greatly enhance a city’s appeal (business and pleasure) and beauty, provide long-awaited infrastructure and generally improve living standards. Although not exhaustive, the following are examples of tangible legacies:
Intangible legacy is also a very important legacy for the host city and the Olympic Movement. Intangible elements are perhaps not as easy to identify or quantify but can sometimes have even more important direct and indirect effects than tangible factors. Examples include:
Legacy is of the utmost importance when a potential host city is creating a vision for the Olympic Games. Not only does early legacy planning strengthen an Olympic candidature, it also brings many benefits to a city not elected to host the Games. With the necessary planning and partnerships, bidding for the Olympic Games can also leave a positive legacy and outcome in those cities not elected and, through the scope and profile of bidding, major opportunities for positive improvement and significant legacy can be provided.
Effective Olympic legacy planning and implementation programmes must begin as early as possible during the candidature so that the greatest possible benefits can be created for the host city, region and country, before, during and long after the Games. The concept, vision and legacy of an Olympic Games are crucial elements to be addressed by Applicant and Candidate Cities. They provide essential guidance and impact directly upon a significant part of the organisers’ future planning. By approaching legacy this way instead of viewing it as something that comes later, the impetus and motivation for early planning and collaboration is greatly enhanced. It also serves as an excellent means of creating positive public support and buy-in for the event itself.
The Olympic Games are above all about sport and the athletes, but they can be a catalyst for change and produce important sustainability outcomes if they are planned, managed and conducted in a way that minimises the adverse impacts and effects. The IOC recognises that the Games can be used as a tool to deliver a vision, in which the universal values of Olympism are promoted. It is crucial to reassess the vision and spirit of what should be the ultimate delivery of the Games: an event combining sport, culture, education, the torch relay, live cites and ceremonies geared toward delivering a unique experience to each and every client of the Olympic Games, as well as a long-lasting legacy for the host city and the host communities.
"The Games are more than just an important sporting event. Aside from the dreams and achievements of young athletes, the Games provide a setting for champions to sow the seeds for future generations, and also enshrine the social responsibility of ensuring that the host cities bequeath a positive legacy. The IOC is firmly committed to guaranteeing that this legacy is as positive as it can possibly be." Speech given by then IOC President Jacques Rogge at the International Symposium on the Legacy of the Olympic Games at the Olympic Museum, Lausanne, on 14-16 November 2002
Find out more about Olympic Games legacies