Sports mega-event legacies and adult physical activity: A systematic literature review and research agenda

Michael J. Annear*, Yasuo Shimizu, Tetsuhiro Kidokoro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Sports mega-events, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have the potential to inspire increases in population physical activity, yet investigations concerning such legacy outcomes have been inconclusive. This may be due to research design limitations or inconsistent leveraging of potential hosting benefits by event organizers. This systematic review aims to identify current knowledge about the capacity of sports mega-events to inspire increases in physical activity participation among adult populations and develop a research agenda to guide future legacy evaluations. Peer-reviewed, English-language studies published on or after the year 2000 were considered. Six academic databases and grey literature sources were searched, and articles were assessed for methodological quality. Reporting followed PRISMA conventions for systematic reviews. Nine studies were selected after quality evaluation, including previous reviews, quantitative and qualitative research. Most studies found no evidence for long-term physical activity outcomes associated with hosting sports mega-events, although limitations and gaps were identified. These included lack of longitudinal or cohort studies, limited differentiation of subpopulations, use of non-validated instruments, and lack of triangulation for qualitative findings. Only one cohort study from Japan identified sustainable and significant physical activity increases resulting from a previous sports mega-event. Considering theory, the commonly cited Demonstration Effect was reportedly an unreliable framework, although the Festival Effect and Social Ecological Model appear more promising for anticipating and explaining legacy effects. With less than two years until the Tokyo 2020 Olympiad, it is appropriate to commence high-quality legacy research drawing on lessons learned from previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-685
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 28
Externally publishedYes


  • Mega-event
  • Olympics
  • physical activity
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Sports mega-event legacies and adult physical activity: A systematic literature review and research agenda'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this