Step forward for Olympic Games research

A/Prof Karen Smith is taking part in a project to research the legacy of volunteering after large events, that has received funding from the IOC Advanced Olympic Research Grant Programme.

Dr Karen Smith, associate professor in Tourism Management, is researching the legacy effect of volunteering after large events with a team from Australia and the UK

There were nearly seven times as many volunteers as athletes at the last Olympic Games in London. Volunteers are an integral component to running large-scale events, but the long term benefits of mobilising a large portion of the community are largely unknown.

That's something Dr Karen Smith, an associate professor in Tourism Management, hopes to change by teaming up with academics in Australia and the United Kingdom to research the legacy of volunteering after large events.

The joint research project took its first major step forward earlier this month when the International Olympic Committee granted the team funding of more than $28,000.

A/Prof Smith is thrilled their year-long project was chosen, out of 41 applicant’s world-wide, to receive funding from the IOC Advanced Olympic Research Grant Programme.

She believes their study will benefit both host countries of the Olympic Games and others who run major international events.

"Countries invest a lot of money and resources bidding for, and hosting, big global events. And there are a lot of benefits they hope to get from them like exposure to boost tourism and business, and greater social engagement.

"But we see there’s also a big desire to use events to develop volunteering and leverage longer-term benefits," she says.

"The Sydney and London Olympics really harnessed the power of volunteers, and that had an impact on the cities and nationally. Harnessing the passion of volunteers for mega events is a good idea, but we're less clear about how host countries can maximise the long-term effects."

The results will prove helpful to community organisations, national sporting bodies and volunteering agencies, according to Dr Smith, by illustrating how existing volunteer infrastructure can be optimised to ensure the positive effects of volunteering extend well beyond the one-off event.