Intended for healthcare professionals


Olympic Games: linking sports mega events to population physical activity

BMJ 2024; 386 doi: (Published 08 July 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;386:q1414
  1. Fiona C Bull, head of physical activity unit1,
  2. Paul J Simpson, partnerships editor2
  1. 1Department of Health Promotion, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2The BMJ, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: F C Bull bullf{at}

Hosts, organisers, and sports’ governing bodies should ensure that everyone reaps health benefits

In May the World Health Assembly endorsed a resolution proposed by over 40 countries to strengthening health and wellbeing through sports mega events.12 This included a call to integrate the promotion of regular physical activity to people of all ages and abilities into the objectives of events such as the Olympics.

The financial, human, and environmental costs of hosting such events are enormous; the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was estimated to cost over $200bn (£160bn; €190bn).8 Organisers, governments, and sports’ governing bodies often justify this by arguing that the event will have long term benefits for the host, such as urban regeneration, economic growth, social impact, or improved population health.3 Unfortunately, systematic evidence indicates that sports mega events don’t leave lasting increases in population physical activity.4567

Legacy is a long distance event

A legacy that improves population health must be planned and delivered as thoroughly as the event itself.9 But this has been rare. Legacy planning and funding mechanisms are commonly detailed just months, …

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