Dr Derek Casey – Sport & Leisure, The Good, Bad and the Ugly
Dr Casey packed in a phenomenal amount of information into his talk. It was very topical and gave interesting insights on geo-political change. This was made clear by the lively follow up question and answer session. Dr Casey’s sub-title The good related to the increasing successes of our athletes at international events, the bad related to the failure of major events to live up to their promised legacy objectives and the ugly related to drug abuse and International Sports organisations such as the IOC, FIFA, etc pursuing their own interests rather than those of the sports or their hosts.
Much of the thrust of the talk revolved around tourism as it now represents 10% of the world’s GDP as a result of people’s increased affluence. In the West this has been stationary in recent times but there has been a dramatic increase in China’s and India’s wealth. This is starting to bring about a sea change in travel and tourism. Indeed, he noted that the decline of the middle classes in the US had featured as an issue in the US Presidential debates. Dr Casey’s talk explored national and city strategies seeking to exploit tourism to re-brand and identify Unique Selling Points (USPs) to grow their economies. He then contrasted Glasgow over the last 150 years and recent changes in China. Indeed, Dr Casey sees a resonance between China’s current global footprint and Britain’s past imperial footprint.
Dr Casey also talked about the post war decline in sport and how the advent of the Sports Lottery Fund in the 1990s, which he influenced as the Chief Executive of the Sports Council, had turned top level sport around. He explained at that time, a decision was taken to concentrate on top sport as insufficient funds were available for mass sport. Nonetheless there is concern that school sports have continued to decline, sports facilities and parks are closing, amateur football is in decline while in highly financed mainstream football is having a negative impact (highlighted in the breaking Allerdyce scandal). As regards the Rio Games, Dr Casey feels that the athletes are being over-hyped as ‘Olympic Heroes’ rather than simply good athletes – another excess. This is further undermined by the fact that drug abuse is out of control. Only about 10% of countries check for drugs regularly as drug tests cost roughly £500 a time. As a result world’s Sports are suffering.
Dr Casey concluded, in the light of the failures to deliver on the exaggerated benefits of major event bids, that the philosophy behind them needs to be re-examined. At their best sport, leisure and tourism are beneficial for countries. However, ambitions need to be matched with realism and a lack of corruption. Dr Casey indicated that UK support for the Olympic athletes represented about £5 million a medal. This investment was over achieving. He now believes that a healthier balance is needed to spread the benefits to a wider population. How to deliver on this is the challenge the country needs to address.