Sports for the Planet?

Major sports events such as the Olympic Games, the Rugby World Cup and the World Athletics Championships have become an important part of modern societies. These events are occasions for profound urban transformations, expensive economic ventures, global media spectacles and often the subject of controversy. As resource-intensive and highly visible undertakings, they have a heightened responsibility to be sustainable.

Yet, the sustainability of these events is largely under-studied. This project aims to fill this gap by developing a conceptual model, indicator framework and contextual analysis of the sustainability of major sports events along four thematic axes: Cities & Environment, Governance & Performance, Integrity & Human Rights, Media & Diversity. The project adopts a mixed-methods approach. In the quantitative part, it will create a comprehensive global database with over 60 sustainability-related variables encompassing a broad range of sports events from 1990 to 2022 to fashion an analysis of sustainability outcomes for major sports events across time. Meanwhile, the qualitative part will draw on semi-structured interviews, media analysis and document analysis to explore in depth, through eight case studies, why some events are successful in their sustainability practices and others are not.

The project will provide systematic, longitudinal evidence that can reorient debates in sport research and event studies and pioneer a new method for evaluating their sustainability. The policy outcome will be the launch of the Lausanne Observatory of Major Events (LOME), which will use the database to monitor and benchmark future events, promote greater sustainability and provide independent information to event organisers, policy makers, journalists and citizens.

The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant number 215327). The project started in February 2024.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you wish to discuss potential collaborations, speaking engagements, media enquiries, or if you would like to find out more about our research.