Legacy and sustainability in the Olympic Movement’s new norm era: when reforms are not enough

Robert VanWynsberghe, Inge Derom, Caitlin Pentifallo Gadd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In times when cities around the world are withdrawing from consideration to host the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has responded by enacting policy reforms. Entitled Olympic Agenda 2020: 20 + 20 Recommendations, we examine forty recommendations through the lens of critical policy analysis. Specifically, we use Strittmatter et al.’s framework of legitimation strategies in policy formulation and implementation to investigate the ways in which the use of sustainability and legacy terminology is employed in the process of legitimating the IOC today. Findings demonstrate two general legitimation strategies. One is the familiar framing of the Olympic Games in terms of sustainability and legacy with a new emphasis on the Games as an opportunity to integrate cities’ long-term planning needs into bidding and hosting the event. The second focus asserts the Olympic Movement’s global leadership role in sport in the context of sport itself being depicted as a leading social institution in making meaningful social change. In this paper, we detail these legitimation strategies and offer commentary related to the need for the IOC to use this policy reform process to move beyond rhetoric alone to embed meaningful and measurable accountability standards in the hosting process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-460
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2021


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