2021 Volume 26 Issue 2 Pages 87-101
Research background and objectives: The Olympic Games have the potential to inspire increases in physical activity (PA) among host populations, yet such legacies are infrequently reported. While research concerning PA legacies has seldom identified positive outcomes, design and methodological limitations are common. Therefore, this study aimed to identify expert academic consensus concerning the challenges, opportunities and research needs associated with the pursuit of PA legacies to guide sports event planning prior to the Tokyo Olympics. Methods: A two-round, mixed-method Delphi study was undertaken during 2018 following international best-practice guidelines. In total, 27 academics from five regions participated with diverse expertise across sports, PA and Olympic research. Experts were particularly sought from the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, due to their knowledge of regional issues ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Results: Consensus (>50% participant agreement) was identified in relation to five themes and six expert-generated statements. Experts showed negative sentiment in relation to Olympic PA legacies, acknowledging only the tangible infrastructure and facility developments and highlighting failures in long-term strategic planning. Looking ahead to future Olympic Games, experts acknowledged the possibility of achieving population increases in PA under the right circumstances. They asserted, however, that such outcomes will rely on government commitments to a long-term legacy plan with defined performance measures, sustainable funding, and stakeholder support. In order to accurately capture the effects of the Olympics on population PA, experts recommended that longitudinal cohort studies need to be initiated with appropriate sub-population representation. Conclusion: Previous Olympic Games have a poor record of achieving PA legacies beyond infrastructure and facility development. A strategic, long-term approach to legacy management is required and research is needed to capture baseline data to inform longitudinal studies of hosting impacts.