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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Legacies of the Canada Games: a critical analysis of claims Smith, Douglas A.


The Canada Games is a multi-sport Games with twenty-five years of history, having rotated to every province in Canada, and is now into its second cycle, that is, now staged in some provinces for a second time. It is a significant part of the Canadian sport system, each time involving the Federal Government, all twelve provincial and territorial governments, a civic government, over one hundred sports organizations across Canada, several large corporate enterprises and many smaller businesses, and thousands of volunteers, staff, officials, coaches, managers, and athletes. A considerable amount of concentrated effort, resources, and financial support is required to stage a Canada Games every two years. Throughout the history of the Canada Games, numerous claims of legacy have been made. Such claims are most common in reports from governments and host societies, but are also found in the literature in a variety of publications. In this study, the literature was analyzed, and it was found that claims of legacy fell into five broad categories: facilities, equipment, officials, community spirit and pride, and sport development. Evidence in support of each claim was researched. Documentation was available on facility development and equipment purchase and disbursal over a period of twenty years. Little evidence could be found in support of the other claims of a legacy. A population which fulfilled the qualifications of long-term knowledge of the Canada Games and the Canadian sport system was chosen to sample. It was recognized early that the qualified persons available may be seen to have a vested interest in the Canada Games by virtue of employment or association with organizations or governments that have directly or indirectly endorsed the Canada Games. In an effort to reduce problems of bias, persons were also interviewed or surveyed from the academic ranks, the media, civic recreation,and individuals, such as coaches and officials. The sample was divided into three groupings: those with a vested interest (VI), those with a potential vested interest (PVI), and those with no apparent vested interest (NAVI). The sample was surveyed by questionnaire or in person over a period of eighteen months. Each person was asked whether he or she agreed with each of the five claims of legacy. Respondents were encouraged to elaborate, and to also provide a rationale for each opinion. All interviews were recorded by the author as notes. The task of data analysis entailed interpretation of answers as either agreeing with, or disagreeing with, the claim of legacy. It was found that many answers could not fit either category, so a third category was used for "Yes or No" answers. Fifty-seven records were critically analyzed. It was found that the "Yes or No" answers which also were accompanied with greater elaboration yielded the best insights into the problems of legacy claims. There was fairly strong support for a claim of a legacy of facilities. Those who had reservations pointed out facilities that have fallen into disuse or that have encountered problems of operating deficits. Several persons referred to a negative legacy of building Olympic-sized swimming pools in smaller Canadian cities. A claim of a legacy of equipment was supported by some, but questioned by others. Those who supported the claim generally could cite good examples of equipment still in use for the benefit of specific sports in Canada Games host communities. Those who questioned the claim referred to the legacy as short term or a less significant legacy. A claim of a legacy of officials also yielded mixed support. Some respondents strongly agreed, but many questioned the longevity of the effect. A lack of community sport infrastructure to support officials' certification and development was noted. A claim of an improved community spirit and pride was widely supported, but little evidence beyond anecdotal reference was offered. Many felt that the claim was self-evident. A claim of a legacy of sport development was also widely supported, but the few who did question the claim wanted to know more about the meaning of the claim. Was the effect local, provincial, or national in scope? Is it a cause and effect relationship? What part of the sport system has seen development because of the Canada Games? The responses were multiple and varied. The study concluded that legacy claims were made in too general a manner, with proponents of the Canada Games often using legacy claims as a rationale for continued funding and support. Legacy claims need to made more specific with particular reference to a specific item and the group benefitting from the legacy. In addition, since little evidence exists in support of such claims, it would be in the interest of those with ongoing responsibility for the Canada Games to undertake studies which measure the potential legacy effect in several areas. Finally, it was noted that those who write and speak about the Canada Games should be more careful using the legacies argument because generalized claims can be misleading and, at times, lack meaning.

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