Sport, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: Cause, Cure and Compassion?

By Professor Michael Ego
University of Connecticut- Stamford

The text below was developed from the address presented at a one day symposia on Sport, Dementia and Mental Health hosted by The Scottish Football Museum in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.

Dementia can be caused by a number of different diseases, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease. The cognitive and functional losses are exacerbated by stereotypes and stigma – as the world sees a person almost totally lost once he or she receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis – lost both to themselves and to those who love them.

The stigma attached to dementia can be observed when the general public’s body reactions to the word when it is pronounced before them. Some associate dementia as a contagious disease (i.e. infectious) and steer away from any physical proximity, just in case they may catch the disease. Others will not admit that there is a friend or relative with the disease, since it would show shame about their family. Fact: Dementia is not an automatic condition of human ageing.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses have a devastating impact on American society and culture – impacting an estimated 5.2 million American citizens each year. The media coverage of this disease has primarily focused on the Cause and the Cure – with the third C – Compassion – mostly seen as third fiddle in the discussion.

The research that has been conducted on the Cause have pointed to what is considered “risk factors.” Age is one factor, in that persons over age 65 are likely to have the disease, as compared to during young adulthood or middle adulthood. Family history portends that persons who have a parent or sibling who has the disease are two to three times more likely to develop the disease, but not a guarantee that genetics is the cause.

The third category is lifestyle patterns, that include head injury, lack of exercise and a healthy diet, avoidance of tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, staying socially active, and engaging in intellectually stimulating activities, and there is an association between heart health and brain health. In summary, there is NO evidence that there is a definitive causation that may PREVENT someone from developing the disease.

The “C” that has got most of the attention is Cure. Although there are some drugs that been developed to ameliorate the disease in the early stages of diagnosis, as of this time, scientists have not been able to discover the proper drug to cure the disease. Recently, there was an announcement by one of the pharmaceutical companies that a highly anticipated “trial” for a drug that might cure the disease was not successful. So, we are still awaiting good news about a discovery as a cure to dementia.

The third “C” is Compassion. During the past four years, I have been investigating the reasons for the third “C” being seen as an afterthought, in most cases. Of course, American society wants to know what causes the disease, and also the cure that will save people’s lives. But, unfortunately, Compassion is not shown by those who do not have the disease, towards those that do, nor towards the families with a person with the disease.

I began to investigate how Compassion was displayed regarding dementia by countries around the world. I found there is attention being given to non-pharmacological interventions to enhance the quality of life for those individuals with dementia. Sports and related activities have made a valuable contribution to provide experiences that are beneficial to the lives of persons with dementia.

In my exploration of societal efforts that demonstrate Compassion led me to Scotland. There, starting in 2009, socialization programs were initiated to enhance the quality of life for men with dementia.

The programme, entitled “Football Memories,” was begun by Michael White, who had several friends with dementia, and who also were soccer fans. Since the inception of “Football Memories,” there are currently 185 support groups, consisting of volunteers throughout Scotland (a population of 5 million people), who offer similar memories programs in Golf, Rugby, Cricket, Shinty and Movies.

I suggested In November 2016, at a symposium  hosted by the University of Edinburgh (Academy of Sport and the Global Health Academy) and the Scottish Football Museum that Scottish society understood the challenges and struggles of those with dementia, and were responding with Compassion through the socialization programmes. I was particularly struck by the way the challenges were being met in terms of dealing with, and helping people living with dementia through the medium of the Gaelic language – materials being prepared bilingually and work being done using both English and Gaelic where appropriate. This was highly cost effective and beneficial to a significant number of people.

In comparison, in the United States (with a population close to 325 million people), I have found two programs that have initiated sports memories programs: the Baseball Reminiscence League in St Louis, MO, and the BasebALZ League in Austin, TX). I have observed both programs and there is a genuine display of Compassion by the volunteers and the sponsoring organisations. In January, a third Baseball Reminiscence League will begin in Cos Cob, a collaboration between the River House Adult Day Care Center and the University of Connecticut.

In conclusion, I am not advocating that we dismiss the two C’s – Cause and Cure. We must continue to explore both dimensions that will help us to prevent dementia and to find a remedy for the disease. As we await the answers to Cause and Cure, let us show Compassion to those who have the disease and for their families and friends.

Sport, poverty and education

By Grant Jarvie

Access to sport can alter life chances and advance educational achievement.


Sport provides for both formal and informal education. The potential of sport to improve lives, help with the means to escape poverty and enhance educational achievement has yet to be fully realised and understood in Scotland. Sport can be a multi-faceted force for change and have far-reaching and multiple influences. It can help peoples’ development, raise aspirations, and be a source of hope across different demographics in society.

Sport should be embedded at every level of Scottish education particularly in areas of concentrated poverty. Universities are well placed to continue playing an integral part in developing the role of sport in the Scottish education system. Sports’ ethos and potential to improve life chances fits well with the ethos of Scottish Universities. Universities and sport are resources of hope. Universities are part of the fabric of Scottish life, fulfill the aspirations and hopes of many and because they have stood the test of time are ideal for building other things around them.

As Scotland strives to tackle poverty and boost educational achievement rarely do sport based interventions appear centre stage, but they can make a difference.

Access to sport can alter life chances and advance educational achievement but the power of education working with and through sport is something that Scotland has still to optimise.

Evidence exists to build such a case but does the political will? Education through sport is one of the most powerful local and international social tools that Scotland has but fails to fully use.

The challenges facing Scotland have been well documented and evidenced. Scotland does not face these challenges alone and it can certainly learn from looking at education through sport interventions used in other countries.

Key facts at March 2016

• Children born into poverty are 50% more likely to miss education milestones.
• 11% of children from the poorest areas leave school with no qualifications compared to 3% of the rest of Scotland.
• Schools (both sectors) Universities, Colleges, 151 Community Sports Hubs, Football Learning centres and 42 stadia embedded in Scottish communities.
• 210,000 children live in poverty in Scotland.;
• 2418 council run schools and an independent sector that uses sport to unlock potential and develop capabilities.
• Low incomes and debt problems often mean that small additional costs make some activities unaffordable. 14% of the Scottish population according to Scottish Governemnt 2016 figures live in low income poverty.

Sport, poverty and education

povertyday_2014-1 copy

The popularity of sport combined with carefully crafted education through sport interventions is not a solution but an important part of a solution. Build other things around it and sport can be a resource of hope. For some it can be an escape from poverty, for those involved it develops capabilities, its reach is rarely optimised and new sports are something all 3-18 year olds should have not the chance the right to learn. 

Sport matters and education through sport matters. Sport matters not just for sport per se but because of what it can do for other areas of public life and provision. It can reach areas where other policy areas struggle to reach. Combined sport and education interventions make a difference.

The social impact of sports based interventions including education through sport interventions tell us a lot..

  • Concentrations of poverty in areas of multiple deprivation impacts upon education. Education through sport interventions matter because they are proven to boost educational capability, confidence, mental health and other learning skills that help not just education levels but working and social lives.
  • The LSE study of poverty and access to sport talked to young people perceived not to be interested in sport “ it was an eye opener to learn how much joining in matters to young people, how much informal games, outdoor activity and sport can inspire and motivate them, and how many young people are held back from actively getting involved”.
  • Edinburgh (Moray House) and Oxford University studies of International women runners not only evidence how some women runners not only run to escape poverty but redistribute athletic wealth from running into social causes thus helping to build schools, provide scholarships and bursaries provide educational opportunity.

Scottish sport has historically contributed greatly to the social welfare of Scotland Education through sport is one of the most powerful local and international tools that Scotland has but fails to optimise.

Imagine a more healthy Scotland where all people can increase educational achievement, access sport, and alter life chances. .There is arguably few positive spheres of national life that can compete with the combined power of sport and education to make a real difference for health, education, social mobility, and winning friends though cultural relations initiatives.

Not affordable is an excuse- it is about political choice

Community groups fighting to have car free streets to allow children to play outdoor sport are thwarted on grounds of cost. It is not a question of cost but political choice.

The knowledge to unlock the potential of sports social toolbox exists but it needs to be much more of a priority through making braver political choices.

Creating hope where once there was despair

Great politicians, visionaries and inspirational leaders understand what sport can do. Mandela understood it but do our politicians believe Mandela enough to commit and act on his guidance.  

Creating opportunities for social mobility, education and altered life chances

While the case is not typical it is both timely and insightful as football and the world of football both celebrates and mourns the loss of the late Johan Cruyff.

For some football has been the informal education that has assisted with social mobility. As the obituaries for the great Johnan Cruyff rightly acclaim the great contribution that he made to world football it is perhaps easy to forget both the journey travelled and the importance of both the informal football education and a formal higher education to the three times world player of the year. He was the second son of Hermanus and Petronella Cruyff, brought up in Betondorp, a poor Amsterdam suburb and enrolled into the Ajax youth section at the age of 10. His mother worked for Ajax as a cleaner, his father a greengrocer died when he was 12 and his mother re-married to the groundsman at the Ajax club.

Cruyff was closely associated with the ideal and methods of total football which he took with him into a successful managerial career. Cruyff was fiercely conscious of the education and altered life chances that football had given him. He was also justifiably proud of his foundation that raised enormous funds to help sports participation of handicapped youngsters on an international scale. He was also proud of the Johan Cruyff Institute[]that looked to educate the next generation of leaders in sports management. The institute was founded in 1999 as a project of Johan Cruyff to train athletes in the world of management.

The passion for sport is used to drive education and development but also to provide opportunities.

To return to Scotland – What needs to be done?

Just Imagine:

  • If safe, supervised  parks and spaces to support sports activity flourish in all neighbourhoods.
  • If Game Changer initiatives to help sustain health and education were accessible through all local football stadia
  • If every child had the right, not just the chance to learn and sustain 3 sports by 3, 5 by 5 and 10 by 10 including swimming , recreational running and a team sport.
  • Free access to some forms of culture exist in Scotland but not others.
  • Building a world class community sports system which was the envy of the world with educational achievement and sports activity opened up through every, for example, community sports hub and care home.
  • If grassroots sports initiatives ,such as Spartans or Crags Community Centre in Edinburgh, were able to be sustained in every area of multiple deprivation.
  • If like some other countries one hour daily active quality physical education was sustained in every primary school.
  • Enabling a greater scale of early years interventions and affirming the right of every child to access sports’ activities such as swimming, recreational running, team sports and more.
  • Maximising the lure and adventure of sport reading to boost reading levels.
  • If Scotland had its own international inspiration sports programmes or its own equivalent of the Norway Cup.
  • If free accessible sports and education provision helped to address the issue of young people living in poverty and dropping out of sport after leaving school.
  • If we harness technology and accessibility to maximise the potential of popular sport and physical activity such as Football More than a Game.
  • The outreach work that Universities are doing through sport was both recognised and increased .
  • If an expanded Winning Students Bursary Scheme was able to support at least 2 students per year from each of Scotland’s 100 data zones from which the majority of children are deemed to be living in poverty.
  • School partnerships between the different school sectors and shared access to sports facilities.


Education is one of the greatest drivers to eradicate poverty and the concentration of poverty in areas of multiple deprivation. Sport can play a major role in Scottish education if the political will is there to unlock the potential of the social toolbox that is sport.

 Scotland is rich with policy ideas and opportunities do exist to build upon existing infrastructure, institutions and policy directions.     Further investment is necessary but the educational potential of sport should not be decided on grounds of cost but on its effectiveness and ability to transform lives.

In 2015 UNESCO issued a call to action for international policy makers in invest further in sport and physical education on the grounds that it was integral to greater educational attainment.   In Scotland we should rise to that challenge.

There are few spheres of our national life that can compete with the combined power of sport and education to make a real difference. Sport can be a resource of hope, it can assist with advancing educational achievement.

 Great leaders understand this.   “Sport has the power to change the world …..and create hope where once there was despair”[1].   Nelson Mandela, May 25th 2000.

[1] See


Gender equity, audits and the Olympic Games

All three parts have been produced as a result of  systematic auditing of the Olympic Games.

The research team for the Gender Audits of the London (2012) and Sochi (2014) Olympic Games was:

Professor Peter Donnelly, University of Toronto, CANADA

Professor Michele Donnelly, Kent State University, USA

Dr Mark Norman, University of Toronto, CANADA

Professor Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto, CANADA

The information provided was correct as at December 2015.


Professor Peter Donnelly will be talking about the Gender Audits of the Olympic Games at the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport Policy Seminar on 14th December at 12.30 – St Leonard’s Land, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh. 

Professor Bruce Kidd and Professor Peter Donnelly are both Global Fellows of the Academy of Sport.

In 2014 the Universities of Edinburgh and Toronto signed an agreement to work more closely together. See the joint Edinburgh-Toronto Public seminar series on sport and physical activity []

  • Contact Professor Grant Jarvie for further details of the event.

Gender equity, audits and the Olympic Games is presented in three parts:

Part 1: Introduction to Gender audits of the Olympic Games

Part 2: Gender Equality and Opportunities to Participate: Not the End of History

Part 3: Differences in the Ways that Women and Men Participate

All three parts have been produced as a result of a systematic auditing of the Olympic Games

Part 1: Introduction to Gender audits of the Olympic Games

Sport is one of the remaining areas of human activity that is still primarily segregated by gender. In this era of equality and human rights, sport remains segregated based on the understanding and the assumption – both implicit and explicit – that it is ‘separate but equal’.1

In fact, that is the only possible justification for segregation. However, reams of research evidence comparing women’s and men’s sports in terms of funding and sponsorship, publicity and media representation, sex testing, and leadership (coaching and administrative) show that sport is separate, but it is far from being equal.

The Centre for Sport Policy Studies (CSPS) at the University of Toronto has been carrying out a series of gender audits of Major Games’ events.2 This project grew out of the triumphalist announcements of gender equality during the London 2012 Olympics.

London 2012 Olympic Games

There was much to applaud with regard to gender equality achievements at the London Games – a higher proportion of women athletes than at any previous Olympics; women competitors in every sport; and no country deliberately excluded women competitors from its Olympic team. Jacques Rogge, then President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), called the Games “a major boost for gender equality;” and a number of media outlets began to refer to the London Olympics as “the Women’s Olympics.”

Our skeptical selves suspected that this was not ‘the end of history’ for women at the Olympics. And since the claims by Rogge and the characterisation by some media were based on the structure and rules of the Olympics as they affect women and men athletes, we decided to focus our audits on that aspect of equality.

The research questions

We asked one basic question – what remains to be done in order to achieve gender equality at the Olympic Games?

We operationalised that question in two parts, the first with respect to opportunities to participate and win medals (structure) and the second with regard to the ways in which athletes are able to participate (rules):

  • How equal are the Olympics in terms of: the total numbers of women and men?; the number of opportunities men and women had to win medals (i.e., how many medal events were there for women and for men)?; and the proportional distribution of women and men among those events?


  • What differences are there between men’s and women’s sports in terms of the rules of competition? In other words, what does their relative participation look like?, how is it experienced?, and we offer some speculations about how the different rules for women’s and men’s competitions are justified?

Part 2: Gender Equality and Opportunities to Participate: Not the End of History

This series of gender audits begins at a point where there has been a long history of increasing women’s participation at the Olympics, and an associated increase in the number of Olympic events for women. For example, some 40 years ago only approximately 1 in 5 Olympic athletes were women.

The 1976 Olympic Summer Games were held in Montréal, where 20.7% of the athletes participating were women (1,260 athletes); and Olympic Winter Games were held in Innsbruck where 20.6% of the athletes participating were women (231 athletes). The number of women Olympic athletes at each Games has now increased to just over 2 in 5. In the Summer Olympics, the proportion increased at every Olympics since 1976, and reached 44.3% (4,835 athletes) of the participants in London 2012.

At the Winter Olympics, increases in the proportion of women athletes have not been so linear, with women constituting 40.4% (1,158 athletes) of the participants in Sochi 2014, down slightly from 40.7% — the highest ever proportion of women Winter Olympic athletes in Vancouver 2010.

There has been a similar increase in the number of events in which women are able to participate – 49 of 198 events in Montréal (24.7%) to 136 of 302 event in London 2012 (45%); 15 of 37 events at the Innsbruck Olympics (40.5%) to 45 of 98 events in Sochi 2014 (46%). These data also indicate the significant increases in the overall size of the Games and, as noted subsequently, that as women’s participation opportunities have increased, so have men’s.

Equality is far from being achieved

While acknowledging these increases it is also clear that, despite the three milestones achieved at London 2012, equality is far from being achieved. In fact, there are some indications (outlined below) that progress toward gender equality has slowed, and perhaps even reached a plateau. This slow progress contradicts the fact that, following years of lobbying by women athletes and women’s organisations, the IOC made a commitment to increasing gender equality that it has been working toward since the 1994 Olympic Congress held in Paris.

The rate of increase in women participants and women’s events in the 20 years following the 1994 Congress is not really any greater than the increases that occurred in the previous 18 years (since the 1976 data, above). By 1994, women’s participation had increased to approximately 30% at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. In the 20 years since 1994, and following the explicit IOC commitment to equality, women’s participation has only increased to approximately 40% of Winter Games athletes and approximately 44% of Summer Games athletes (see Table 1).

For both the Summer and Winter Olympics there was a significant increase in the proportion of women athletes in the Olympics that immediately followed the Paris Congress (participation increased 5.2% and 6.2% respectively). However, the rate of increase has slowed significantly, especially at the Winter Games.

With regard to the number of events for women (i.e., the number of opportunities to win a medal) there has been an increase, parallel to the overall increase in women’s participation opportunities, in the proportion of women’s events at the Summer Olympics (from approximately 32% in 1992 to 45% in 2012). However, the proportion of women’s events at the Winter Olympics, while starting higher (44.3%), has increased less than 2% over the same 20 years.3

Table 1. Event and participation increases since 1994, Summer and Winter

Summer Olympics       %events       %women       % increase/decrease in

                                                                athletes         athletes (from previous Games)         

 Barcelona 1992              31.9                28.8                 +2.7

Atlanta 1996                    34.3                34.0                  +5.2

Sydney 2000                   38.7                38.2                  +2.5

Athens 2004                    40.2                40.7                  +2.5

Beijing 2008                    40.7                42.4                  +1.7

London 2012                  45.0                44.3                  +1.9

Winter Olympics       %events       %women        % increase/decrease in

                                                             athletes          athletes (from previous Games)

Lillehammer 1994          44.3             30.0                         +2.9                       

Nagano 1998                  45.6            36.2                         +6.2

Salt Lake City 2002        46.2             36.9                         +0.7

Turin 2006                      46.4             38.2                         +1.3

Vancouver 2010             46.5             40.7                         +2.5

Sochi 2014                     46.2             40.4                          -0.3

Accounting for the failure to achieve equality:

The IOC commitment to gender equality since 1994 is outlined in the Olympic Charter as follows:

            The role of the IOC is: […]

  • (6) to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement;                                              
  • (7) to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all                                                     levels of and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of                                       equality of men and women.

There are at least three interconnected reasons for the failure to achieve gender equality, despite this mandated commitment:

First, new sports and events have been added since 1994 primarily on the basis that both men’s and women’s events must be added equally (e.g., mountain biking, beach volleyball, curling, snowboarding, etc.). So, although some women’s events or sports have been added to match the already existing men’s events (e.g., women’s ice hockey, women’s pole vault), and even though there are two women-only sports at the Summer Olympics (rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming), there are still more men-only events at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Thus the new men’s events, introduced on the premise of equality for men and women, have served to reduce, or at least slow, the possibility of achieving equality in either the proportion of events or the proportion of participants.

Second, a significant number of sports and events stipulate a lower quota of women athletes than men athletes. For example, in team sports the Olympics football (soccer) tournaments were played with 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams; and the water polo and ice hockey tournaments were played with 12 men’s teams and eight women’s teams – but while the number of players on the men’s and women’s teams was equal in the two Summer sports, Olympic ice hockey was played with teams of 25 men, while women were limited to 21 players per team.

In the more individual sports, boxing had an overall quota of 250 men and 36 women; rowing had an overall quota of 353 men and 197 women; and luge had an overall quota of 78 men and 28 women. Some sports had an equal quota for men and women, and in some of the individual sports quota differences were a consequence of the fact that the sport has more events for men than for women. The stipulations for gender quotas originate with the International Federations (IFs) that govern each of the sports, but they are approved in a formal process prior to each Olympic Games by the IOC.

Taken in combination, the way that new sports and events are added to the Olympic Games and the gender quotas that exist in many Olympic sports, help to account for the fact that in 2015 (some 20 years since the gender equality reforms began in earnest), almost 60% of the athletes at Winter Olympics are men, and over 55% of the athletes at Summer Olympics are men.

 The third reason involves IOC concern about gigantism – about the growing size and cost of the Olympic Games. As a consequence, the IOC has remained cautious about adding new events and additional athletes, which has had a consequence for gender equality.

As noted, no new sports may be added unless it is open to both women and men, making it more difficult to achieve greater equality without adding additional women’s events that are equivalent to current men-only events, and without increasing the quota of women in many of the sports and events where there was a lower quota for women athletes.

 Before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, concerns about gigantism at the Summer Olympics led the IOC to attempt to cap the number of athletes at approximately 10,000. This has been achieved in the ways noted above, with the number of athletes remaining steady at approximately 10,500 since Barcelona 1992.

Thus, athletes do not account for ‘gigantism’, and the IOC should look to other areas of the Games to control the size of an Olympics. For example, over 20,000 media personnel have been present at recent Summer Olympics (24,272 in London); and the total growth in the number of accredited persons at Summer Olympics has increased from 196,000 in Sydney 2000, to 223,000 in Athens 2004, to 349,000 in Beijing 2008 to, reportedly, 510,000 in London 2012.

This reluctance to increase the number of athletes at an Olympics, while at the same time permitting exponential growth in terms of other accredited persons, creates a situation in which attempts to increase gender equality pit men and women against each other. That is, in order to increase the number of women’s sports and women athletes, men’s sports and the number of athletes will have to be cut.

This has already occurred. For example, the boxing federation (AIBA) dropped one men’s weight category in order to add three women’s weight categories in London 2012. But women’s positions have also been cut in an attempt to meet the cap in the total number of athletes. For example, the cycling federation (UCI) reduced women’s positions from three per country to two per country in mountain biking at London 2012, while men still were still permitted three riders per country.

We do not advocate achieving gender equality by reducing men’s opportunities in order to increase those for women. We need to recognize that men and women athletes are not the ones responsible for gigantism or for gender inequality at the Olympics, and should not be the ones to suffer (by having events or positions cut) through resolving one problem by creating another.

If achieving gender equality means adding women’s events so that there are an equivalent number of women’s and men’s events, and if it means increasing the quota of women athletes in sports where there is a lower quota for women, then this achievement is worth increasing the size of the Olympic Programme.

 Olympic Agenda 20+20:

The current IOC reform agenda (Olympic Agenda 20+20), released in 2014, offers recommendations concerning gender equality and gigantism – but it does so in a way that may not resolve the problems noted here. For example, Recommendation 11 states that the IOC will “Foster gender equality” by (1) working “with the International Federations to achieve 50 per cent female participation in the Olympic Games and to stimulate women’s participation and involvement in sport by creating more participation opportunities at the Olympic Games;” and (2) encouraging “the inclusion of mixed-gender team events.”

However, Recommendation 9 imposes quite strict limits on the total number of athletes and events at future Olympic Games, with a small increase for Winter Olympics, but more or less the status quo for Summer Olympics: “The IOC to limit the number of athletes, officials and events for the Olympic [Winter / Summer] Games to approximately: 2,900 / 10,500 athletes; 2,000 / 5,000 accredited coaches and athlete support personnel; [and] 100 / 310 events.”

We are pleased that Recommendation 11 of Olympic Agenda 20+20 directly supports one of the main recommendations of our gender audits – “Establish near equivalence in the number of men and women who are permitted to compete at the Olympic Games, and in specific Olympic sports/events.”

However, the only way to achieve the goal of Recommendation 11, under the limitations imposed by Recommendation 9, will be to cut men’s sport and events, and to reduce the quota of men athletes. As noted, this is a less than ideal way to achieve gender equality.

The IOC has already begun to implement the second part of Recommendation 11 – the inclusion of more mixed-gender events – but it is difficult to see how this will help to achieve “50% female participation” since mixed events involve both men and women, and those in the mixed events in London and Sochi were athletes already involved in the individual events in their sports.

 For example, three new mixed gender events were included on the Sochi 2014 programme (in addition to figure skating pairs and ice dance): biathlon mixed relay (2 men, 2 women per country); luge mixed relay (3 men, 1 woman per country); and figure skating team competition (3 men, 3 women per country). Our Sochi audit determined the actual number of opportunities created for women and men athletes as a consequence of the addition of these events.

A total of four athletes (2 men, 2 women) across the three events (168 athletes in total) did not compete in already existing, single gender events at Sochi. Thus, mixed gender events did not contribute to increasing gender equality at Sochi, and there does not seem to be any logical way that they could, unless we consider the way that the IOC reports the proportion of women’s events at Olympic Games (see Table 2- below).

Women's participation in the Olympic Winter Games

Year Sports Women's eventsTotal events% of Women's eventsWomen's Participants% of Women's participants
An audit of women's participation and medals in the Winter Olympic Games
* including mixd events


In the most recent report of women’s participation provided by the IOC (, the column listing the number of women’s events at each Olympic Games is marked with an asterisk indicating that the number includes mixed events. In other words, events in which both men and women participate are included as women’s events, but are not also included as men’s events.

Thus, the luge relay, an event with three men and one woman on each team is only counted as a women’s event in this IOC version of statistics. So, while our gender audit calculated that there were 7.5 more events for men than for women and 7.5 more opportunities for men to win a medal than women, the IOC reports that 50% of the events in Sochi were for women (our data indicate that 46% of the events were for women).4

It is not misleading for the IOC to report that women participated in 49 of the 98 events; however, it is misleading to claim that that represents 50% of the events by not showing that the mixed events were also men’s events.

 Part 2: Conclusion

 This audit of the gendered structure of the Olympic Games is grounded in a liberal feminist perspective. It fails to take account of the intersectional differences that are perhaps an even stronger indicator of which women participate in Olympic Games – namely, that the participants and medal winners are primarily white women from high income countries.

However, we argue that if an organisation claims (liberal) gender equality as one of its principles and goals, and continually fails to achieve or provide means to achieve that goal, then it is unlikely to give any serious attention to more fundamental forms of inequality.

It is time for the IOC to honour its own Charter and reform recommendations, and the principles of human rights and gender equality, by making a serious commitment toward achieving gender equality at the Olympic Games – even if that means increasing the overall number of athletes and events. It is not necessary to add or establish the same (equal/identical) events for women and men; however, it is necessary to add equitable (similar) events and to achieve the same number of events (opportunities for medals) for women and men at the Olympics.

The following analysis of differences in the ways that men and women compete at the Olympics provides further insight into the politics of gender.

Part 3: Differences in the Ways that Women and Men Participate

 At the outset it should be noted that the rules for many men’s and women’s competitions at Olympic events are identical – for example, most of the running and swimming events, short track speed skating, volleyball, curling, and many others take place under identical rules. However, the second part of our gender audits examines the rules of competition, focusing on those sports/events that are essentially equivalent (e.g., men’s and women’s speed skating events; women’s and men’s tennis, etc.), and identifying the remaining differences that exist between the rules that govern women’s participation and men’s participation.

Our findings indicate that many of these differences are grounded, often in inconsistent and sometimes contradictory ways, in stereotypical assumptions about bodily size and/or shape and about the respective physical capacity of women and men. These differences in the rules of competition were categorized as follows:

  • races in which women compete over a shorter distance than men;
  • events that involved different weight categories or weight restrictions for women and men;
  • events where there were differences between men’s and women’s competition in terms of the height, weight, size and spacing of equipment, or the size of venue; and
  • an ‘other’ category to capture any other differences in rules or form of competition between the men’s and women’s events.

[The following differences are developed more comprehensively in the London and Sochi Reports cited in Note 2.]

Distance raced:

In many Olympic events that take the form of a race, especially athletics and swimming, women and men race the same distance. For example, in athletics every race is the same distance for men and women, except the hurdles sprint in which men run 110m and women run 100m; however, there is one additional race for men, for which there is no equivalent for women – the 50km race walk.

The contradiction in this case emerges when we consider that both men and women run over 40km in the marathon, but only men are permitted to race walk 50km. Similarly in swimming, the competition is identical for women and men except for an 800m freestyle race for women only and a 1500m freestyle race for men only.

At the other extreme, in all 12 events (six men’s and six women’s) in the biathlon, and 10 of 12 events (five women’s and five men’s) in cross country skiing, the men’s races are longer than the women’s races. This is also the case with the course length in all but one of the downhill ski events. The implicit rule in this case is that, if there is a difference between equivalent men’s and women’s races in the distance raced, the men’s race is always longer.

The single exception to this rule was in the Sochi Super Giant Slalom] event – the women’s course was 4m longer than the men’s course – although the men’s vertical drop, from start to finish, was 7m more than the women’s. In fact, the vertical drop was more for the men’s races than the women’s races in all of the downhill ski events, and all of the sliding events. Similarly, the elevation gain stipulated in all of the cross country and biathlon ski races was always more for men than for women.

Kayak, speed skating and cycling events all had longer events for men than for women, although the most extreme cases were in cycling. For example, in the road racing events, the men’s road race was 250k while the women’s was 140k; and the men’s time trial was 44k while the women’s was 29k.

There are two potential and related reasons for these remaining differences.

The first may involve some ongoing concerns (among some men) about men’s and women’s competitions and achievements being directly comparable, with the inevitable possibility that, at some point, the performance of the ‘fastest’ woman may exceed that of the ‘fastest’ man. However, if this is the case, then the large number of directly comparable races that now exist suggest that the remaining differences represent some form of residual culture.

The second is that the differences that still exist represent the remaining vestiges of men’s assumptions about women’s frailty that, earlier in the 20th century, prevented women from running races longer than 800m, and even into the second half of the 20th century excluded women from running 10,000m races or marathons.

 Weight categories/restrictions:

Weight categories exist mainly in the Summer Olympics, in combat/martial arts events, and in weightlifting and rowing. The categories are presumably intended to provide fairness in competition by having same-sex competitors who are not mis-matched in terms of their body mass. In the Winter Olympics sliding sports, greater weight gives more momentum to the sled so there are weight restrictions associated with the combined weight of the athlete(s) and the sled (bob, luge and skeleton).

In all cases, there is an assumption – perhaps based on an anthropometric ‘average’ – that men are heavier than women; there has been no evident or recent attempt to determine if the weight categories established over time are still relevant – for men and women; that is, if they represent the current range of human athletic physique?

Both within sport and between sport comparisons indicate that there is often no rational or consistent reason for the categories or the range of categories. For example, the maximum weight of the sled and athletes in the sliding sports is always heavier for men – but in luge athletes are allowed to carry additional weight on their sleds to bring them up to a maximum of 75kg for women and 90kg for men.

But if extra weights are permitted, why not permit (or at least consider) the possibility of both women and men having the same combined weight for sled and athlete; and why not carry that consideration over to the other sliding sports?

In the weight category events, tae kwon do has four weight categories for men (with a range of +21kg) and four categories for women (with a range of 18kg). This 3kg difference in the range of weights for women and men is the smallest of all the weight category sports; in boxing the difference in range is 18kg; in judo it is 10kg; in freestyle wrestling it is 41kg; and in the non-combat sport of weight-lifting it is 22kg. This results in participation opportunities for men from a wider range of weights, and much more limited opportunities for women in the same events.

 Differences in equipment and playing area:

These differences are again grounded in assumptions about the smaller size and physical capacity of women compared to men. Differences include, in athletics, the height of hurdles and steeplechase barriers, and the weight and size of javelin, shot, hammer and discus (always smaller and/or lighter for women). Differences in other sports include a smaller permitted sail area for women than men in two of the sailing events, a smaller sized pool for women than men in water polo, and lighter guns for women in two of the shooting events

The contradictions begin to emerge when we consider the sports where there are no stipulated differences in equipment and playing area. For example, women compete with a smaller ball in handball and water polo, but not in basketball or the two forms of volleyball. And women compete with a lower net than men in volleyball but not in basketball. A similar, although perhaps even more complicated set of differences exist for the Winter Olympic sports with regard to equipment size and competition areas.

Other differences:

The other differences between men’s and women’s competitions range from the rules that govern the form of competition (for example, the number of rounds of competition in rowing, judo, boxing, diving; the number of sets played in tennis; the number and length of rounds in boxing; the duration of the free programme in figure skating), to rules that determine which techniques may or must be used (for example, in wrestling, ice hockey, and figure skating), to rules determining what may or must be worn (for example, in figure skating, and all skiing events). Again, these remaining rule differences are grounded in assumptions about the shape, size and stamina of women compared to men, and again they must be compared to those events (e.g., freestyle skiing) where rules and uniforms are basically identical.

 Final Comment

 It is entirely possible that some of these rule differences will be considered appropriate by competitors and officials in the sports involved. However, given the contradictions, and the fact that athletes are rarely involved in determining the rules by which they must compete.

We recommend that all of the remaining rule differences that apply to men’s and women’s competitions be revisited, and reconsidered in the light of:

  • the best available scientific and anthropometric evidence, and
  • the contradictions that exist between sports.


  1. For example, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, points out that, in the USA: “Athletics is the only formally sex-segregated department in education. As such, it sends important messages to the entire nation about how it will treat men and women” (2011).
  1. The following CSPS Gender Audits are available:

Donnelly, P. & M. Donnelly (2013). The London 2012 Olympics: A Gender Equality Audit. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

Available at:—olympic-gender-equality-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Kidd, B. & M. Norman (2014). Gender Equality at the Commonwealth Games, Part 1: Historical Perspectives. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

Available at:—commonwealth-games-gender-equality-report-part-1.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Kidd, B. & M. Norman (2014). Gender Equality at the Commonwealth Games, Part 2:

Glasgow 2014. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.

Available at:—glasgow-2014-gender-equality-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Donnelly, M., M. Norman & P. Donnelly (2015). The Sochi 2014 Olympics: A Gender Equality Audit. Centre for Sport Policy Studies Research Report. Toronto: Centre for Sport Policy Studies, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.—a-gender-equality-audit.pdf?sfvrsn=2

In progress:

Audits of the PanAmerican and Para PanAmerican Games held in Toronto (2015).

  1. Our calculation of the proportions of women athletes and events for women differs from that of the IOC [ in_Olympic_Movement.pdf].

Although our calculations led us to report a slightly higher percentage of women participants at both London 2012 and Sochi 2014, our calculation of the proportion of women’s events differs markedly from the IOC. We have assigned 0.5 of a mixed medal event each to men and women where the number of men and women in the event is equal.

However, the luge mixed relay at Sochi involved three men and one woman on each team: therefore, we assigned 0.75 and 0.25 respectively to men and women. An alternative would have been to count mixed events as an event for both men and women, but this would have artificially increased the number of events. By dividing a mixed event between men and women, we maintained an accurate total number of medal events.

  1. At the London 2012 Summer Olympics, there were 30 more events for men than for women (136/302 for women; 166/302 for men); at Sochi 2014, there were 45.25/98 women’s events and 52.75/98 men’s events.

Austerity and sport for health

By Dr Dan Parnell and Dr Paul Widdop

Austerity has impacted upon the real life experiences of communities. Sport and recreation has not been immune from austerity.


Against a volume of evidence citing the rising number of food-banks, homelessness, an increasing inequalities gap and the privatisation of the National Health Service it is hard to place sport in the austerity debate. Yet investment in sport for social agendas has evidence of producing a social return, which is not always recognised.

Sport encompasses physical activity and the relationship between the two has long since established the awareness of the health costs of inactivity (WHO, 2010). The World Health Organisation estimates that physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality, responsible for 6% of deaths globally. That is 3.2 million deaths per year. Including 2.6 million in low-and-middle-income countries. In 2012, ‘The Lancet’ medical journal, noted that the impact of inactivity on mortality could be greater still – 5.3 million deaths per year – rivalling tobacco for causes of death.

Promoting physical activity is not just key, but critical in tackling Public Health issues. A challenge for physical activity researchers and policy makers is reducing inactivity levels within hard to reach communities and in a format that is attractive to fit the consumption needs of local people. Ultimately, sport for health has a role in Public Health in making physical activity more amenable, desirable and attractive to many, including those on the margins.

An insight into the sport and leisure industry

Public Sector provision for sport and leisure has changed and in some cases disappeared since the introduction of austerity driven policy measures.

A report by King for the Association of Public Service Excellence [] pre-empted these reductions in services and highlighted that certain parts of England are being disproportionally affected (APSE, 2010). Austerity has contributed to a fragmented landscape of provision.

Much of the report predictions for 2015; including, falling revenue budgets, staff cuts, increased charges, reduced opening hours, facility closures and reduced commitments to parks and pitches utilized for organised and casual participation; have become a reality. A clear example of this is the fight to ‘Keep Park Road Baths Open’ [].

In a localised context, Liverpool (UK), which is home to some of the most deprived communities in Britain, evidences high levels of obesity and decreasing fitness levels amongst children across the city. Despite this, its Local Authority service provision for swimming has been severely threatened. Both the Everton Park Sports Centre (within the deprived L5 area) and the Dingle areas Park Road swimming baths were threatened with closure. Further, radical changes to opening times have been imposed on the Austin Rawlinson centre in Speke.


The reported rationale for closures were related to high operating and maintenance costs, which contributed to the budgetary deficit of £7.3 million in the year 2013/2014. Whilst local councillors have looked for options such as community transfer, the swimming pools remain open and under Local Authority management.

This was due to the campaigners who fought the council at every step, yet the safety of the site remains unclear. Whilst the council have committed to the short term future of the site, opening hours have been reduced and key services have been moved to other sites – all contributing to a more subtle withdrawal by the council and lesser services for local (and severely deprived) communities.

Furthermore, what may happen in communities that have a less cohesive network structure that facilitates mobilisation is that they could ultimately lose essential services in sport and leisure which as noted elsewhere impacts upon society and community social capital.

Austerity is real, observable and experienced

Whilst the rolling back of the state will impact Local Authority leisure centres across England and potentially other parts of the UK, the impact of reduced opportunities for communities, families, people and children to participate in sport and physical activity is not certain. What is clear, observable and experienced is that the consequence of austerity has a real impact on real people, across communities.

Is austerity influencing sports participation?

Participation figures for sport and physical activity across Local Authorities in England shows a significant decrease during a period of austerity (2008-2013). Using a pooled logistic regression model of two waves of the Active People Survey, Widdop et al (forthcoming) found that evidence clearly suggests a statistically significant difference in participation in sport for women, younger people and non-white individuals between 2008 and 2013.

In simple terms, there is clear statistical evidence that women participation rates in sport were significantly lower in 2013 than 2008 – a similar pattern is found for both young people aged 14-29 and non-white individuals. This is a worrying development as during this time period we have had major sporting Mega Events happening across Britain, with a participation legacy in place, a legacy that has been systematically challenged by austerity measures. Local Authorities are bracing themselves for more austerity constraints placed upon them, and with sport not being part of core services, it is likely to face further cuts.

Sports which rely heavily on local authority provision especially in grassroots delivery are particularly susceptible to a change in funding structures and support. Indeed, football is such a sport that is mainly dependent on Local Authority provision. Yet, it is this time of year, that football managers, coaches, players and officials dread, as many matches will no-doubt be called off due to poor weather conditions and unplayable surfaces.

Local Authorities are core providers to grassroots sports, through pitch maintenance, development, facilities and upkeep.

Local authorities are experiencing many problems relating to the current economic climate [] and ultimately they have had tightened their spending [], which impacts frontline services and the experiences of people playing.


A result of this is reduced investment in grassroots sports provision and/or increases in pitch fees and the cost of facility hire. This coupled with the closure of sport and leisure facilities will undoubtedly impact upon the opportunities for sport and physical activity, especially football []. Whilst it is difficult to measure the impact this has on society, it will certainly have a negative impact on social capital, belonging, and well-being, detaching communities from each other, and increasing social tensions.

So why is sport important?


So we return to the question set out at the start of the blog, why are we interested in sport for health? Without sport and physical activity we can expect to see an increase in lifestyle related diseases, especially those within our deprived communities. This will have huge impacts on Public Health, none more recognisable to those in government than the financial one. Some politicians could still stand to gain from this, as the privatisation of the NHS will benefit from more people needing support, especially as we know the financial costs inactivity can create.

Whilst, we might struggle to ‘make the case’ for sport, we do know the cost of inactivity, currently standing at £940million per year, with a serious risk of increasing. It has never been more important to invest in sport, leisure and physical activity. An approach that is both preventative and low-cost.

Perhaps it is time for government, LA and those in Public Health to get serious about the current state of Local Authority sport provision, which is slowly but alarmingly disappearing. As it does, we can expect to lose the subsequent physical activity opportunities and gain the consequences of extended inactivity.

Changing the policy story

Underlying all such policy initiatives relating to sport, recreation and health is that the costs of increasing revenue to support young people will prove an excellent investment compared to the scale of future health costs.

The consequence of cutting funding for Local Authority sport and leisure may be one of the major false economies of our time. The debate should not be about how much it will cost today but how much it will cost if no action is taken.

A fundamental paradigm shift is needed in terms of how sport and recreation provision in local authority areas is played out.

Addressing environmental challenges through sport

This blog highlights and recognises some of the work that is already being done to utilise the unique power of sport to address environmental challenges.

By Michael Pedersen,

Founder of M INC. > change the game

A campaign for greener sport.

A campaign for greener sport.

The evidence provided within this text reflects information as at 22 September 2015.

Sport is uniquely placed to address societal challenges. It attracts unprecedented attention and unites people across traditional societal dividing lines such as religion, ethnicity, political observation, wealth, social class and cultures.

Greening sport events vs. greening fan behaviours

There are generally two ways for sport to address environmental challenges. One is to reduce the environmental footprint of sport. The other one is to motivate behavioral change among fans, inside as well as outside the stadium.

Behavioural change in and through sport

Behavioural change in and through sport

While most of the current work focuses on greening sport, there is a big potential in also utilising sport to motivate behavioural change among fans in support of addressing environmental challenges.

The environmental footprint of sport

Sport negatively impacts the environment in several ways. Its environmental footprint is primarily caused by (no particular order):

  • The production and distribution of sports wear and sport equipment, including usage (washing clothe) and disposal (garbage).
  • Construction of new sport venues for the hosting of sport events (or renovation of existing facilities).
  •  Construction of new public infrastructure for the hosting of very big sport events (or renovation of existing infrastructure).
  • Fans engaging in sport tourism.
  • Board members and professional staff of sport organisations traveling around the world to attend annual meetings, board meetings and other meetings of national and international sport governing bodies, leagues and clubs.
  • Professional athletes traveling around the world to participate in training and to compete at sport events.

Emerging solutions in the world of sport

Golf eco footprint

While the International Olympic Committee [] and FIFA [] are integrating environmental sustainability into their evaluation criteria for bidders to host their events, other international sport bodies like for instance International Ski Federation [], Badminton World Federation [] and International Motorcycling Federation [] are putting in place environmental policies to guide events in their sports.

In sports like for instance golf, surfing and sailing, specific organisations are being established to develop standards for greening sport specific events and/or sport specific equipment, i.e.

A campaign for sustainable surf

A campaign for sustainable surf

Sustainable Surf [],

A campaign for cleaner regattas

A campaign for cleaner regattas

Sailors for the Sea []

and Golf Environment Organization [].

Also, in countries such as the USA, United Kingdom and Australia, specific organizations that focus on sport and the environment across sports are being established,i.e. Green Sports Alliance[], British Association for Sustainable Sport [] and Sports Environmental Alliance []. Last but not least, international standards and tools for greening of sport events are being created, i.e. by Académie Internationale des Sciences et Techniques du Sport (AISTS) [].

Evolving good practice: Environmental stewardship at the US Open in tennis

United States Tennis Association (USTA), which is the sport governing body that organises the  US Open [], initiated its environmental work in the context of the US Open Tournament in 2008. Among other things, USTA’s strategic decision to do so reflected increasing fan expectations of green initiatives and burgeoning energy costs.

During recent years, USTA has further increased and diversified its initiatives to minimize the environmental impact of US Open. Today, the Association is showcasing environmental stewardship in the context of its annual premier Tournament in at least four ways:

Minimizing direct environmental impact

Initiatives to minimize the direct environmental impact of US Open include:

  • Matching the electricity generated during the tournament through Green-e certified wind renewable energy certificates
  • Using napkins and other paper material composed of 40-100 percent recycled material
  • Diverting waste through recycling and composting
  • Collecting tennis balls used during matches and practices to be donated to community and youth organisations

Off-setting the environmental impact of player travel

Player travel to US Open is offset through Green-e Climate certified Sterling Planet carbon offsets. That is the case for both travel by air as well as travel on the ground.

Encouraging fans to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour

Each year, USTA hosts more than 700,000 fans during the two weeks of US Open at The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, USA. Initiatives to encourage tennis fans to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour include a campaign for them to take public transportation to the tournament venue.

Initiatives to encourage fans to adopt environmentally responsible behaviour beyond the US Open include a 30-second public service announcement titled “Impact”. Broadcasted regularly during the tournament, the announcement encourages fans to reduce their paper, water and energy use.

An important aspect is a message from Billie Jean King, the tennis legend whose name the stadium carries. Her message is: “To solve the serious environmental problems facing our planet, we need to shift our culture toward more sustainable practices.”

Other similar initiatives include environmental tips for smarter living that are featured in the ‘Daily Draw sheet’ as well as through US Open social media channels.

Shaping evolving good environmental practices in sport in partnership with others

Besides working closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council, USTA is a member of Green Sports Alliance.

Evolving good practice: International Cycling Union Eco Cyclo Patrol

The Eco Cyclo Patrol [ ] was created in 2006 in France by a passionate cyclist named Patrick François.

After too many negative experiences in seeing what participants leave behind at cycling events, Patrick decided to recruit volunteer cyclists to teach good environmental manners to their fellow participants.

The easily recognizable Eco Cyclo Patrol group of volunteer cyclists participate in targeted cycling events with the mission of advising and encouraging their fellow cyclists to adopt a responsible attitude to the environment.

Dressed in easily recognizable green harlequin jerseys, the volunteers in the Eco Cyclo Patrol ride alongside their fellow cycling fans and encourage green behavior. Not only do they fight against rubbish left behind by participants after major cycling events, they also work with organizers to encourage the use of renewable energy and recyclable infrastructures.

An ecocyclo group

An ecocyclo group

In 2013, the Eco Cyclo Patrol gained support by the International Cycling Union and is now expanding to offer cyclists and event organisers all around the world the opportunity to join in adopting environmentally friendly practices too.


Sport is uniquely placed to address societal challenges such as environmental issues. It can reduce its environmental footprint, not least from sport events.

it is in a position to motivate behavioral change among fans in support of the environment, inside as well as outside the stadium.

Emerging solutions include integrating environmental sustainability into the evaluation criteria for bidders to host sport events as well as establishing sport or country specific organisations, offering guidance and standards to reduce the environmental impact of sport.

Cases of emerging good practice include the US Open in tennis and the International Cycling Union’s Eco Cyclo Patrol.

Football, creating influence and shaping how others see us.

Scotland v Germany 1929-2015

By Grant Jarvie

It may have been a spirited 3-2 on the pitch but the morning after Scotland v Germany European Championship qualifier the National stadium hosted another event that examined not only Scotland and Germany ‘s footballing links but also how other countries are using sport to create influence on and of the pitch.

On September 8th the Centre for Cultural Relations and the Academy of Sport joined forces to hold a workshop entitled:

“Scotland and Germany: The Future for Sport, Cultural Relations and International Development “

The workshop was funded by the Scottish Government and kicked of a series of events that focused upon Scotland and Germany. The event was also supported by the National Football Museum at Hampden Park.Untitled

Richard McBrearty of the National Football Museum briefed those present on the history of Scotland V Germany. Scotland’s first tour of Europe involved a match against Germany in 1929; the teams have played 17 times between 1929-2015 with Germany winning 8, Scotland 4 and 5 being drawn.

Untitled3Between 1906 and 1933 Celtic, Aberdeen, His, Rangers and Cowdenbeath all toured Germany.

The hosting of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was supported by the Scottish Football Museum who helped to transport the world’s oldest football as part of the 2006 Hamburg FIFA World Cup exhibition.

Yet the 2006 World Cup won by Germany was significant for other reasons. It highlighted the significance of long term planning if cities and countries were going to use the hosting of major sporting events to improve their image.

The Arnholt-Gfk Roper Nations Brands index, which measures external views of countries, showed that Germany went from seventh place in 2004 to first place in 2007 and remained in second place in 2011. The 2014 results showed Germany back in first place and Scotland in 17th place. Sporting excellence was a factor widely cited as working in Germany’s favour.

Long term planning and a cost effective model of delivery were some of the factors, acknowledged by Bridget McConnell that contributed to a successful Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Having played for Frankfurt, Glasgow ladies, Scotland and Germany Katarina Lindner championed the positive contribution that women’s football was having not just in Glasgow but that different forms of football might be needed to attract different segments of the community into the game.

Having a football team in a city certainly helps to position a city and country. A fact that was evidenced by Professor Jon Oberlander from the University of Edinburgh who cited examples of Manchester, London, Liverpool, Oxford and Glasgow as cities whose social media profiles and volume of twitter traffic were all influenced by having football teams and or hosting major sporting events in the city.

In a month when Louise Martin was elected Chair of the Commonwealth Games Federation the audience at Hampden Park were reminded that Scots and those leading Scottish sporting institutions are creating influence within sport and through sport. Louise Martin, Stewart Regan and Sir Craig Reedie are but three sports administrators working in an extremely competitive international arena.

Having taken over from Lord Coe as, Chair of the International Inspiration Programme, Sir Martin Davidson, cited the fact that this programme reached 25 million children and young people in 19 countries. The significant role that Scottish sport had to play in international development was acknowledged by Humza Yousaf Minister for Europe and International Development who opened the event organized by the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport and Centre for Cultural Relations.

An ever-increasing number of countries are using sport as a vehicle for cultural relations, diplomacy and international development. The Australian Government has a specific 2015-18 sports diplomacy strategy. It has suggested that 3% of GDP should be invested in 4 pillars of diplomatic activity through sport – Connecting people and institutions; enhancing sport for development; showcasing Australia and supporting innovation and integrity.

In 2018 Glasgow will co-host a multi-sports event with the city of Berlin. Football clubs from both Scotland and Germany have called for support to be given to refugees. Sporting events like the Scotland V Germany match provide opportunities for not just football but civil servants, ambassadors, governments, cultural agencies and foreign diplomats to meet and do business.

If football can make a broader contribution then why shouldn’t cities, countries and diplomats use it as tool not just to create influence but to make a contribution to the world being less tense and better place.




Old College, The University of Edinburgh ©


I am writing to introduce you to The Academy of Sport at the University of Edinburgh.

SPORT MATTERS is the blog that supports the work of the Academy of Sport.

The Academy of Sport is a network of collaborators both within and external to the University of Edinburgh that provides a gathering place for the worlds of sport.

Building upon a remarkable sporting heritage dating back to at least 1591, the Academy of Sport, established in 2014, was born from a desire to serve communities locally and globally.

Two premises guide our work. Firstly that sport has a part to play in addressing the challenges that face humanity in the 21st century and secondly to serve as an independent think tank that addresses these challenges through evidence, dialogue and advocacy.

As a gathering place for the exchange of ideas and sporting enlightenment we are neutral, inclusive and at the heart of an international sporting landscape.

The Academy builds upon three pillars of activity: impact, study and dialogue.

We aim to:

  • Engage a critical mass of knowledge, research, strategic collaboration, influence, access and opportunity through sport.
  • Provide an independent sports observatory to address problems and suggest solutions.
  • Advance an understanding of sport’s contribution in addressing global, local and international issues.
  • Influence future agendas policy making and its impact through advocacy and evidence based interventions.
  • Advocate the potential of sport and education to make a difference to people’s lives.
  • Provide access to the University of Edinburgh and sustain a commitment to exploring the potential of sport to reach disadvantaged communities.
  • Engage with governments, international sports organizations and those who seek to influence the world through sport.
  • Build a better understanding of the role of sport in diplomacy, cultural and international relations, and foreign policy.
  • Promote the links between research, evidence, education and advocacy.

Our work supports independent research about issues and problems within sport and where sport is part of a broader solution or intervention.

The SPORT MATTERS blog aims to provide an honest, open, evidenced, safe space for dialogue about the value and potential of sport.

I hope you will join us.

You can get in touch with us directly at

or by calling +44 (131) 651 6577.

Professor Grant Jarvie

Chair of Sport and Head of Academy of Sport
The University of Edinburgh