Legacy: Debunking Common Assumptions

The concept of the ‘event legacy’ is much speculated amongst event scholars and professionals, mainly because of how hard it is to define. However, a better understanding can be gained of legacy by unpicking some of the common assumptions surrounding it.

Assumption – Legacy planning is a relatively new consideration for event planners

In actuality, the long-term planning of event legacies has been done for decades. Over 50 years ago, for example, the planners of the 1968 Mexico Olympics built their Olympic villages for long-term and multi-purpose usage, with the village buildings being sold as apartments after the event. Techniques of creating positive legacies such as this, now frequently seen, are not as new as you might think.

Assumption – Legacy is only relevant to larger events, such as sporting mega-events

Events of any size can leave a legacy. Quite often, a group of smaller, local scale events can have a cumulative effect to leave a desired positive legacy in a region. This was the case for Hull, where the 2,800 events programmed in 2017 worked successfully together to leave a meaningful cultural legacy, allowing the UK City of Culture to live up to its title.

Assumption – If a legacy is planned, it is guaranteed to materialise successfully

Even the most meticulously planned events can fail to deliver some of its intended legacies. The London 2012 Paralympics hoped to increase sporting participation from disabled groups, as one example, but this did not occur as expected. By 2016, disabled participation had instead fallen back to pre-2012 levels, demonstrating that planning a legacy doesn’t always guarantee results.

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Can you think of any other assumptions about event legacy that aren’t necessarily always true? Please leave a comment below.

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Assumption- Creating a legacy solves economic, social and environmental issues.
Reality- Many times the legacy can have a negative impact on the host city or country. The example of Brazil hosting the Olympics is perfectly good: these were seen as one of the worst Olympics… Even with the positive outcomes, the legacy of the Games will forever be tarnished.

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This is a really common assumption, yes - thank you for your contribution. The Olympics in Brazil is a great example of this as you say, and an event creating a legacy doesn’t mean that it can solve all the issues in the country it is being hosted in. This idea reminds me of the 2011 Cricket World Cup in India, where the event solved none of the social issues in the country like intended!

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Completely agree! Unfortunately the reality is that events many times fail to create a postive legacy in host cities.

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Thank you. If I were to do a follow up post, it’d likely be on ‘realities’ of event legacy, looking more at the cases that never did create a positive legacy, as you say. It’s an interesting area to look at.