There has been much talk of legacy following London’s successful Olympic Games. But there are ongoing costs as well as benefits to hosting major sporting events, as Glasgow is about to discover
Now that the spectacular events of the London 2012 Olympics have come to a close, the flag, together with a metaphorical baton, has been passed to Rio de Janeiro to be the next successful host city in 2016.
But in the UK few, outwith Scotland, will recognise that the immediate UK sporting baton has not been passed to Rio, but to the city of Glasgow. In less than two years, Glasgow will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In fact, in 2014, Scotland will host two of the biggest sporting events on the planet. The Commonwealth Games will be closely followed by golf’s Ryder Cup, which will be held at Gleneagles in Perthshire.
Both events, like London 2012, will be supported by some form of public funding, whether directly or indirectly. The popular and emerging justification for supporting such events would appear to be defined by the use of one simple word: legacy. Recently, it has become a much used term to refer to the wider benefits that will be received and to justify not only the hosting of such events but also the inevitable public expenditure.
What public references there are to the word legacy however, and there are many, are generally referring only to the benefits to be gained. But what about the ongoing public costs, (or is it investment)? Legacy must surely be viewed in a balanced way, considering not only the benefits to be gained whether short or long term, but also any ongoing costs that will be associated with providing public funding for large sporting events.
Given the immediate afterglow of London 2012, few would rush to a harsh judgement on the worth of large-scale public funding. But ultimately, in the cold light of day, objectivity will have to be applied. Already the UK Government has pledged additional funding up to 2016/17 of £80m – evidence perhaps of the additional costs necessary to enable a continuation of the sporting legacy.
The one certainty, irrespective of the financial and intangible benefits from hosting major sporting events, is that there will be a cost to Scotland’s public purse at some point. Like any public funding, there should be clarity on not only the benefits but crucially what the ongoing costs will be, whether described as legacy or otherwise. So can Scotland shed any light on how to cost legacy?
Some of the early signs are positive. An independent study published earlier this year on the arrangements for Glasgow 2014, concluded that the Scottish Government and the host council had developed ‘legacy plans’ that fit with the national performance framework. It recognised that there was no specific funding for legacy but that plans and initiatives had been specifically aligned with legacy plans. That same independent report also concluded that more work needed to be done to evaluate the return on investment.
So far, there is less evidence of any independent views on funding associated with golf or the Ryder Cup. Scottish ministers, however, expect that the legacy of the Ryder Cup will bring benefit to Scotland for ‘many years to come’, although beyond a short-term economic boost of £100m, any further details are not yet apparent. Public funding of £2m has already been pledged.
Preparation for the costs of legacy is therefore a work in progress. So we can look ahead to Usain Bolt, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods appearing in Scotland in 2014. But beyond our short-term sporting enjoyment, we should rightly expect that a clearer view will emerge of what legacy actually means, both in terms of benefits but also of ongoing costs.
Don Peebles is policy and technical manager at CIPFA in Scotland