Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


Mega-sport events as “Circus Maximus”: Short-Term Thrill, Long-Term Agony


The chapter “Bread or Circuses?” from Andrew Zimbalist’s book, Circus Maximus, examines the intricacies and complexities associated with hosting mega-events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. The main issue that Zimbalist is trying to understand is if it’s worth the economic gamble that the host cities must undertake to put on these extravagant events. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Simply put, the answer to these questions is most definitely, NO.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee), and FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) claim that hosting these mega-events is a boon to the economic development of the host city/country. They claim that much of the expense in hosting is connected to improving infrastructure, which will support the long-term development needs. They claim that hosting brings short-term employment gains. Furthermore, they claim that host cities will benefit from long-term legacy returns, such as business and/or tourism opportunities. When examining each event individually it may seem like some of these claims are true. However, once you dig deeper it becomes convincingly clear that they are able to create that perception through the use of systematic corruption and manipulation.

In regards to the claim that improving infrastructure will support the long-term development needs of a host city, this may be true, however, to be successful it requires very careful and clever planning. Unfortunately, this is rarely done properly. The best example of this being done is Barcelona when they hosted the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. The case of Barcelona is very unique though. City planners had begun to re-conceptualize the city in 1975 and put their plan to use over the next decade before they even considered hosting. Hosting was seen as a vehicle to put their plan into action. Therefore, Barcelona used the Olympics; the Olympics didn’t use Barcelona. Cities have tried and failed to copy Barcelona’s blueprint. The difference being that they are on the clock and don’t have the time to strategically and organically implement their infrastructure plans.


The layout of venues for the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.

Regarding the claim that hosting brings short-term employment gains, again this may be true, but fails to tell the whole story. The people that stand to gain the most are the local business elite, mainly the construction companies. The costs budgeted in the bid are always massively understated, in order to get political and public consent. This leads to the government having to borrow money and pay it back over the ensuing decades, which reduces funding for other government projects and reduces public employment in the future. The local population do not usually benefit from the increase in employment opportunities. Instead, the construction companies that are contracted to build the facilities and infrastructure bring in imports from other countries for cheap labor. For example, Qatar has brought in an estimated 1.5 million migrant workers from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines to undertake the massive construction for the 2022 World Cup.

Additionally, the long-term legacy return that the IOC and FIFA claim that host cities will benefit from has been unfounded. If any does take place it happens decades down the line and is very hard to quantify. What has become most common among host cities is the number of “white elephants” that have been left behind. These “white elephants” are the Olympic venues that cost billions to build and millions annually to maintain, along with the mountains of debt that must be paid back over the ensuing decades. For only 19 days of action is it really worth such a large investment? If there is no plan post-event for the venues it can be catastrophic on the community and its economy.


Abandoned Softball Stadium from 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Athens, Greece, host of the 2004 Summer Olympics is an example of the worst-case scenario. Athens ended up spending approximately 16 times its initial bid budget to put on the Games. The majority of the venues built have since been abandoned with no use to the people. This act of financial mismanagement was a main contributor to bankrupting Greece when in 2010 the debt crisis began. The government was forced to stop maintaining the venues and they have become a great source of embarrassment for the city of Athens, which happens to be the birthplace of the modern Olympic era.


Abandoned Diving Pool from 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Since 2001, the number of bidders to host has diminished greatly due to the negative image caused by the outlandishly excessive mega-events from Beijing (2008), South Africa (2010), Sochi (2014), and Rio (2014, 2016). The increased coverage of these events and the pitfalls of hosting have scared government officials and the public away from bidding. To put this into perspective, there were 12 bidders for the 2004 Summer Olympics, but since has steadily declined to 10, 9, 7 and then just 5 bidders for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The Winter Olympics have been hit even harder. There were 9 bidders for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but that number has decreased steadily all the way down to 2 for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Rio’s Broken Promise

Everyone sees the commercials, the market, the stories. It is considered a great time of year when the Olympic games are about to begin. Thousands of athletes with different stories and accomplishments gather together to compete against each other for their country. Who wouldn’t think that was great? Who wouldn’t pay to see that? Unfortunately, over time the mentality of the Olympics has changed. The problem isn’t with the athletes, it is with the hosting country and the billions of dollars spent on the “production” of the games.


Hosting is considered an honour, it is the chance to show the world your country and its pride. Countries work tirelessly to get that bid to host, and when granted, it is celebrated throughout. Rio thought that winning the right to host the Summer games would give them the opportunity to catapult themselves into the club of developed nations. Develop infrastructure and remake the city, giving residents a slight dose of confidence.

That confidence started to drift away over the seven years of developing Rio and it going down in history as the most expensive Olympics games. The pile of broken promises grew bigger and bigger. Homicides in Rio were on the rise, sewage lines lacking, rowers and sailors competing in waterways stained by drug-resistant bacteria. Brazil deep in recession with the government overspending on the Olympics and resulting in not be able to pay for public security, and healthcare.

It made me think why was the Olympics more important to spend money on?

Unfortunately, the Olympics were not a loser for everyone. Contracts for everything have found the pockets of some of Rio’s wealthiest. Confirming that old quote of, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Mayor Eduardo Paes has created controversy within by visualizing a modern Rio, promising vital infrastructure, and urbanize the poor area of Rio. Instead the money went to the construction of the athletes’ village and a new golf course. Paes stated that most of the money was put up by private investors but, upon further research it was realized that the state fronted for basically the entire cost of the most expensive project (i.e. Subway extension). The construction of the athletes’ village was built-in mind with the plan to transition them into luxury condos post Olympics. Yet, in 2012 London converted their village into affordable housing. The poor country of Rio was more focused on catching millionaires eyes, than the well-being of their residents. The controversies continue with Carvahlo (Athletes’ village private investor) securing a low-interest government loan, and permission to build several stories above regulation, and hiring the construction firm that was involved in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal. Government choosing to look away due to the fact that Carvahlo has money and is considered powerful. Paes has evicted more than 20,000 families from their homes. Thankfully due to international press attention most families were transferred to low-income housing or received indemnities. Other families were transferred 25 miles out-of-town, so their house could be demolished to make room for a stadium. Stadiums that in 10 years may be used a maximum of 100 times.

Reading this article opened my eyes to the reckless spending involved within the games. Building a golf course for the games to please the wealthy, when money could have been spent redoing one of the two courses that were deemed appropriate. It is the constant thought of wanting to be bigger and better and zero concern on how it could affect the people of Rio. Government corruption is constant, it is publicized yet people ignore and believe it isn’t actually happening. If it does not directly affect you does it matter? This is the problem throughout the world today. Everyone turns their cheek and pretends it isn’t happening. Graft politics in removing homes because of the Olympics when in fact it is just the government using the “Olympics” as an excuse to pursue unrelated projects. Allowing shady multimillionaires to build infrastructure because of past donations to their campaign, yet, the residents of Rio can do absolutely nothing about it.

Media coverage can help and hinder in many ways. The Olympics are followed consistently in the news world. Brazilians losing their homes and receiving an indemnity for their trouble was because of media attention surrounding the scandal. The government is under fire due to the promises promised at the beginning and what resulted in the end. Media attention is also one of the main problems. The Olympics are supposed to be about the athlete’s and yet if a problem occurs during the opening ceremonies, that is what is broadcasted. If the opening ceremonies are lacking in any way that is the first thing that is discussed the next morning. If the athletes’ village or the stadiums are not up to par, then it is considered a disappointing games and lack of commitment by the host. The expectations are high and can be detrimental to the country economically. Sadly the Rio Olympics will always be viewed as a missed opportunity for the country. Focused on building amazing architectural stadiums rather then cleaning up the the cities and water sewage.


The Olympic Games were not established with this mentality. It was built on the thought of bringing the world together to showcase the top worlds top athletes and for two weeks’ peace between countries. Is the problem with the athletes? Some athletes that travel to the games are millionaires in their own sport. Do the hosts believe they have to meet the athlete’s expectations? Do we blame the sport organizations around the world that have multimillion dollar facilities that create these expectations? There is a competition within hosts, who will have the biggest and most over the top opening ceremonies, and what will be done different in the closing ceremonies. It is the same competition aspects that athletes enter the games with; who will be the best?

The main thought I have surrounding the Olympics is when is it too much? Who is going to stop it; who is going to be a leader and say no we are not spending all this money on infrastructure. Who will be creative enough to use the money in a way that showcases the Olympics and build their economy. What country will make money off being the host again? Will a sigh of relief be heard throughout the world?

All these questions have yet to be answered on why or who? I can only imagine the potentially terrifying spending that will continue to happen if someone does not put a stop to it. I guess it is just who will be willing to risk it.

Cuadros, A. (2016, August 1). The Broken Promise of the Rio Olympics. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from


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Resources in grassroots recreation: Organizational capacity and quality of experience in community sport.

Sharpe, E.K. (2006). Resources at the grassroots of recreation: Organizational capacity and quality of experience in a community sports organization. Leisure Sciences, 28(4),385-401.

After examining Sharpe’s (2006) case study that explored the Appleton Minor Softball League, our class actively discussed problems that affect the experience of those youth sport participation.

At the end of the study, one problem that really stuck out was the importance of winning and losing that seemed to be stressed on these kids. Unfairness was a big issue as parents were upset that some teams were much better than others, and umpires sometimes would not make the right calls.

Now, I personally define recreation as “physically and/or mentally active relaxation”. Recreation should not be something you win at, but rather enjoy doing. Whether that is because you love a certain sport, you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, or you just want to have fun with your friends, recreation should not be competitive. It was sad to see through this case study that the tyke division (5 – 7 year olds) had the most troubles of unfairness.

These kids should be concerned about learning more about the sport, and enhancing their social and physical skills, instead of focusing on who wins or loses, or which team is better or not. We discussed how some leagues have now begun to exclude scoreboards for certain ages, this way, learning and fun come before winning.

Let’s take out the scoreboards, and have parents and coaches put emphasis on learning and development at a young age, instead of keeping score. Players and volunteers alike should not feel any pressure in a Rec. league. Competitive leagues should be competitive, recreational leagues should be those looking to have fun, improve their skills, then perhaps advance to the higher leagues if they want too.

What do the readers think? What is your definition of Recreation? Is removing the scoreboard a good idea? Or even more radical which was an idea brought up in class…should PARENTS be removed from games?


A bit extreme perhaps, but its exciting to think about what would happen.

Joe T.

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Examining religion in sport

As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is:

Sarkar, M., Hill, D., & Parker, A. (2014). Working with religious and spiritual athletes: Ethical considerations for sport psychologists. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 17(6), 48-55.

“Working with religious and spiritual athletes: Ethical considerations for sport psychologists” by Mustafa Sarkar, Denise M. Hill, and Andrew Parker is an article on how much religion has become a part of sport in today’s society and the importance on how sport psychologists discuss this topic with their clients.  The article touches on all different religions and how some may praise their god for their success, an example of this being a Muslim athlete saying, “Allah gave me the speed and strength, and I worked for His glory” instead of statements such as “I’m fast, I’m strong, I’m ready” (Sarkar et al., 2014).

I personally feel that religion is important and should be practised everyday by a person of faith; however I do not feel that all the blame or glory should be placed on that respective god and that sport psychologists should explain this to their clients.

Do you feel that athletes of faith should place all their success or failures on their respective god and is it up to a sport psychologists to explain this to the athlete?

Andrew Hughes

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Alcohol sponsorship and sport

As an undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend to future RSS 4092 students is:

Kelly, S., Ireland, M., Alpert, F. & Mangan, J. (2015). Young consumers’ exposure to alcohol sponsorship in sport. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship16(2),83-102.


Throughout this article there are two studies that take place, both having to do with alcohol being targeted towards the younger generations. This article begins talking about how the alcohol industry can be criticized for marketing their product in a way that can increase the consumption among college students, as well as influence binge drinking (Kelly et al., 2015). What follows are the two studies that were conducted. The first study examined the frequency of exposure that individuals have when it comes to alcohol brands, via sport sponsorships. The second study was a little different; it focussed on the role that alcohol companies played when it came to social media. After both studies were finished, and the comparisons were made, the researchers came to the conclusion that there is a need for public policy to monitor the relationship between sport and sponsorship marketing.



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Delivering A COED Program in a University Community

Hello RSS students and others of interest, thank you for attending our presentation, Colleen and I (Marcus Lees) greatly appreciate the feedback and contribution from our discussion questions. Our topic, Delivery of a COED Sport Program, was based on delivering and promoting the benefits in COED sport at University communities by interviewing participants of a COED Sport league (UNB Varsity Men’s and Women’s Soccer athletes) and Organizational leaders of sport and recreation at the UNB community. This seminar presentation was practical in reviewing the application of programming in sport and is relevant to the wellness stream by improving dimensions of wellness; this attributes to mainly social and mental wellness contributions.

At first, Colleen and I did not know where we would take COED programming at a competitive level but through our qualitative research we developed a mission:

To provide a group of athletes who wish to participate in COED Club soccer at a competitive level of competency strictly for the development of those athletes. The purpose of this program is to select athletes from a variety of backgrounds: alumni, athletes in the community entering their last year of high school, athletes that are cut from varsity selection, and Redshirts. This alternative to the varsity soccer program is to provide a grassroots developmental league to enhance player abilities of aspiring athletes to the gender specific varsity soccer team, improve the abilities and leadership skills of all participants, and to provide a shared experience in developing both genders together. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests and provide opportunities for instruction, competition and social interaction.

So what do you think? Where would a COED program exist; would it be a Club program on campus or a Varsity program?

By Colleen Daly and Marcus Lees

Research Analysis Video Link:

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The Rise of Elite Canadian Athletes

Canada has been on the steady increase of producing elite athletes excelling at the professional level or at the international stage of competition. We determined there are three main reasons why Canada has seen an increase in elite athletes.

The first reason has been the adoption and continual development of the LTAD program. The LTAD program helps guide athletes and coaches the things athletes need to be doing at certain ages and stages. The implementation of a LTAD program has helped athletes to develop properly throughout the stages and not be rushed into uncomfortable situations that can lead to athlete burnout or failure. Building off the LTAD model we feel Own the podium and government funding towards elite athletes has been extremely helpful towards athletes getting over the barrier of not only making it to the big leagues or the Olympics but also producing results.

The second reason we determined that has aided in the rise of elite Canadian athletes is a result of better coaching. The coaching association of Canada (CAC) mission is to improve the effectiveness of Canadian coaches across all levels of the sporting system (Coaching Association of Canada, 2015). The national coaching certificate program (NCCP) is an umbrella of the CAC and annually trains 50,000 coaches a year and 900,000 since its inception (Danylchuck, K. & Misener, K. 2009). Better coaching has helped athletes along their athlete pathway, as coaches are influential figures in the social, physical, psychological and emotional development of athletes (Parkins-Forget, J. 2011).

The third reason we feel has been influential to the rise of elite Canadian athletes has been a result of role models, especially Canadian role models. We talked about Steve Nash and how he has been a role model for current NBA Canadian’s Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tristan Thompson. We also talked about Milos Raonic and Eugine Bouchard and the impact they currently are having on tennis Canada. Both Raonic and Bouchard have put Canada back on the map as a powerhouse in Tennis and as a result there has been a spike in registration in Canadians participating in tennis.

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