Project academic summary

Major sports events such as the Commonwealth Games, the Olympic Games, the Rugby World Cup or the World Athletics Championships have become a central fixture of late modern societies: they are at once occasions for profound urban transformations, expensive economic ventures, global media spectacles, and the object of frequent controversies, for example around human rights and corruption. As resource-intensive and often socially divisive undertakings, major sports events have a heightened responsibility to become sustainable, all the more so in their role as multipliers followed by millions of people around the world. Despite their importance for the sustainability transition, however, there is a lack of conceptual work and systematic, longitudinal research on the sustainability of these events.

Filling this conceptual and empirical gap, this project will develop a conceptual model and indicator framework for analysing sustainability in major sports events. In a major empirical effort, it will then collect data to evaluate the sustainability of a broad range of these events from 1990 to 2022 and to investigate the factors behind differential outcomes. For this purpose, it will employ a mixed methods approach. Building on a pilot project, the quantitative part will involve the creation of a database from official documents and public sources, containing some 60 indicators of 248 editions of 24 major single-sports and multi-sports events. This database will allow a systematic comparative analysis of the sustainability outcomes of major sports events over time. The qualitative part will use semi-structured interviews, media and document analysis to deepen the inquiry for eight in-depth case studies to develop context-sensitive explanations for observed outcomes.

To adequately capture the cross-cutting nature of major sports events, our multi-disciplinary team who will examine the sustainability of major events along four thematic axes:

Cities & Environment:
Martin Müller (Lead PI)
David Gogishvili (Senior Researcher)
Andrea Arcidiacono (Research Partner)
Governance & Performance:
Markus Lang (PI)
Shreyya Rajagopal (Doctoral Student)
Matheson Victor (Research Partner)
Integrity & Human Rights:
Stefano Caneppele (PI)
Ioannis Konstantopoulos (Junior Researcher)
David McGillivray (Research Partner)
Media & Diversity:
Lucie Schoch (PI)
Léonie Brodmann (Doctoral Student)
Ann Pegoraro (Research Partner)

The project stands to reorient debates in sports research and event studies through providing systematic, longitudinal knowledge on the sustainability of the sports events sector over the past 30 years. Creating and sharing an unprecedented database, it will pioneer a novel method and knowledge base for the field that future researchers can use. The policy outcome will be the establishment of the Lausanne Observatory of Major Events (LOME), which will draw on the new database to monitor and benchmark future events, encourage greater sustainability, and provide an independent source of information for event organisers, policy-makers, journalists and citizens.