Does being an Olympic city help improve recreational resources?
Being greek, I remember very well the time the summer Olympic games “returned” to Athens in 2004, even if I was alredy living away from Greece at the time. I remember a general joyous atmosphere and an air of positivity (which was probably the last time it blew in Greece, but that’s another story!).
Amongst the several potential benefits of hosting this event listed by people who seemed to know what they were talking about, was that all these newly built facilities would increase the participation in sports of the local population. Somehow I already doubted that Greeks would suddenly be interested in badminton but it might have been just me. Fast-forward to 10+ years after the event, the state of the Olympic facilities is very sad, to say the least although something tells me that the lack of greek intrest in badminton is not the only thing to blame. Thankfully other olympic cities have managed better (take Barcelona and Sidney for example).
This all came back to mind as I read a recently published paper in our Journal, discussing whether being an olympic city helps to improve recreational resources. This paper focuses on assessing the quality of public physical activity resources (PAR) in a low socio-economic community in Rio de Janeiro -the city who will very soon host the upcoming summer Olympics.
This study found that, in general, the quality of PARs in this area of Rio is very low. The main reason for this low quality was incivilities (i.e. “elements that can discourage the use of the space, e.g., graffiti, litter”), indicating that PA infrastructure is frequently either not available or not in good condition to be used. This seems to be particularly the case for areas of low socioeconomic level.
As the authors note, this might have changed since they conducted their study. It remains to be seen whether the Rio Olympics will help improve the physical activity of the people there now and in the years to come. Amongst different difficulties that these games have to face (including financial problems, safety concerns, Zika-related worries and dopping scandals) what do you think? Will they prove to be of benefit at least for the locals especially in economic deprived areas? Or will we have similar pictures like the ones from Athens in 10 years’ time?