Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Can the London 2012 Olympics ‘inspire a generation’ to do more physical or sporting activities? An overview of systematic reviews
  1. Kamal Ram Mahtani1,3,
  2. Joanne Protheroe1,4,
  3. Sarah Patricia Slight1,5,6,
  4. Marcelo Marcos Piva Demarzo1,7,
  5. Thomas Blakeman1,8,
  6. Christopher A Barton1,9,
  7. Bianca Brijnath1,10,
  8. Nia Roberts2
  1. 1Members of the Brisbane Initiative (Cohort 7), International Leadership Programme in Primary Care, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Knowledge Centre, Bodleian Health Care Libraries, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  3. 3Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  4. 4Institute of Primary Care and Health Sciences, Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Keele University, Oxford, UK
  5. 5Division of Primary Care, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  6. 6Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  7. 7General Practice Unit, Department of Preventive Medicine, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP), Sao Paulo, Brazil
  8. 8Primary Care Research, Health Sciences Research Group, School of Community Based Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  9. 9Flinders Prevention, Promotion and Primary Health Care Cluster School of Medicine Flinders University Bedford Park, South Australia
  10. 10Department of General Practice, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Kamal R Mahtani; kamal.mahtani{at}


Objective To examine if there is an increased participation in physical or sporting activities following an Olympic or Paralympic games.

Design Overview of systematic reviews.

Methods We searched the Medline, Embase, Cochrane, DARE, SportDISCUS and Web of Knowledge databases. In addition, we searched for ‘grey literature’ in Google, Google scholar and on the International Olympic Committee websites. We restricted our search to those reviews published in English. We used the AMSTAR tool to assess the methodological quality of those systematic reviews included.

Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcome was evidence for an increased participation in physical or sporting activities. Secondary outcomes included public perceptions of sport during and after an Olympic games, barriers to increased sports participation and any other non-sporting health benefits.

Results Our systematic search revealed 844 citations, of which only two matched our inclusion criteria. The quality of these two reviews was assessed by three independent reviewers as ‘good’ using the AMSTAR tool for quality appraisal. Both reviews reported little evidence of an increased uptake of sporting activity following an Olympic Games event. Other effects on health, for example, changes in hospital admissions, suicide rates and drug use, were cited although there was insufficient evidence to see an overall effect.

Conclusion There is a paucity of evidence to support the notion that hosting an Olympic games leads to an increased participation in physical or sporting activities for host countries. We also found little evidence to suggest other health benefits. We conclude that the true success of these and future games should be evaluated by high-quality, evidence-based studies that have been commissioned before, during and following the completion of the event. Only then can the true success and legacy of the games be established.

  • Sports Medicine
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Public Health
  • Primary Care

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.