Governance: Dealing with Olympic Legacy

“Sport must be the heritage of all men and of all social classes.”

Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Over years, managing legacy has become a substantial part of Olympic Cities’ work which requires long-term vision and strong involvement! Anticipation and planning are keys to success. Cities are progressively adopting sound managing tools and are setting up dedicated organisational structures to activate their legacy and make the most out of this precious “capital”.

The various examples reported by Olympic Cities show that it is never too early or too late for Host Cities to start valuing their Olympic legacy. Cities that held the Games years or decades ago know the importance of identifying themselves as Olympic Cities and therefore they establish governance bodies. Cities that are going to host next editions of the Olympic Games now are requested, as early as in the candidature project, to foresee how and by whom their legacy will be managed. The role of these institutions is key, as they (will) guarantee that being an Olympic City is a lively identity, a fruitful engine and a visible marker at local, national and international levels.

There is no one-size-fits-all governance model but a multiplicity of ways to manage legacy, from which Olympic Cities can get inspired. From local action to country-wide coverage, from temporary structures to long-term organisations, from private foundations to mixed or public entities, Cities create and implement the type of organisation that best answers their needs according to their own objectives. Differences among them are intrinsically linked to geography, history and culture. Their differences also come from the existence of various definitions of what both “governance” and “ Olympic legacy” mean.

In a nutshell, governance relies on three pillars: authority, decision-making and accountability. In addition to these dimensions, governance bodies’ functioning requires financial resources that will allow creation, investment, support of projects, infrastructure maintenance, sports promotion, etc. With these four dimensions come four questions: (i) Who has a voice in making decisions? (ii) How are decisions made? (iii) Who is accountable? (iv) How financing is secured?

For Olympic Cities that are accountable for managing this heritage, “Olympic legacy” is not only a “result” but also a means, a tool in Cities’ hands to further promote development of the City, sport and health related public policies, tourism or education.

This chapter on Olympic legacy governance bodies presents a series of cases that all reflect their own context, history and reality. But whatever their size or their scope of action, Olympic legacy governance bodies seem to share one common objective: the promotion of Olympic and sport values.