Intended for healthcare professionals


How will we know if the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics benefit health?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 20 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2202
  1. Mike Weed, professor of sport in society
  1. 1Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR), Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1QU
  1. mike.weed{at}

    By measuring directly attributable effects in addition to opportunity costs

    The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will cost £9.3bn (€10.7bn; $13.3bn), £150 for every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom. For this investment, we have been promised legacy outcomes1 for sport and physical activity, regeneration, culture, sustainability, the economy, and disability. The last of these legacy outcomes was added only recently,2 after considerable criticism.3 Each of these areas has implications for health or relates to socioeconomic determinants of health.4

    In the linked systematic review (doi:10.1136/bmj.c2369), McCartney and colleagues found little evidence that major multi-sports events deliver health or socioeconomic benefits.5 This suggests that £150 a head towards staging London 2012 is a poor investment made by the treasury on our behalf. However, the review shows that past research comprises a small number of poor quality studies, with large gaps in the outcomes evaluated. Furthermore, studies have evaluated incidental outcomes; London 2012 is the first Olympic and Paralympic Games that will explicitly try to develop socioeconomic legacies for which success indicators are identified—the highest profile of which is to get two million more people more active by 2012.1 London 2012 therefore seems to fulfil one of McCartney and colleagues’ recommendations to include longer term outcomes …

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