1. The creation of a UK City of Sport competition, modelled on the success of UK City of Culture, with a focus on health and wellbeing.

 The inquiry recommends that the Government launch a new UK City of Sport competition with one of its primary aims being increasing wellbeing and reducing physical inactivity. The competition would commit to delivering the five recommendations set out in this report. The UK City of Culture programme shows how a major event, held over the course of a year, can bring together partners from across the public, private and charity sectors around a shared vision for a place. It can promote closer relationships between businesses and communities, and raise the profile of a place on the national and even international stage.

The inquiry is calling on the Government, sports councils, governing bodies, councils, schools, the media, faith and civil society to back this proposal. The competition would be open to cities, towns or whole counties.


The competition’s focus would be increasing levels of physical activity among the least active, as well as participation in sport, with a real emphasis on using public spaces that are outdoors. Increasing volunteering, as well as using the power of sport to connect people and bridge divides should be further objectives. Increases in cultural participation and cultural confidence have been major successes of the City of Culture competition, and there are good reasons to believe this could be replicated here.

The place-based programmes of Sport England and its counterparts in the other home nations, as well as European-wide initiatives such as Healthy Cities demonstrate how this might be done. UK City of Sport would be a galvanising force for long-term, local commitment to increase physical activity. This would not be about concentrating elite sport in one location for a year. Instead, bidding cities would develop a dynamic programme of participatory activities alongside flagship spectator events, unique to the history, assets and needs of their place.

This may include:

  • ·   A shared commitment to improving physical activity;
  • ·   Launching new, participatory events that bring different communities together;
  • ·   A schools’ programme;
  • ·   Businesses supporting their employees to be more active;
  • ·   Innovative partnerships between non-sporting and sporting organisations;
  • ·   Investment to roll out initiatives such as Sporting Memories, which brings together older people through a shared love of sport;
  •   Attracting more/more varied spectator sporting events or mass participation activities to the area;
  •   A strategic approach to strengthening the visitor economy through a celebration of the location’s opportunities for active recreation and spectator sport;
  •   Investment in the public realm in the run up to the event, with a specific focus on active travel and improving facilities, as with City of Culture.

Host cities might also join the Global Active Cities Network’s Global Active City − Active Well-being Initiative, linking them up with a wider network of learning and action.

The inquiry recommends a further feasibility study is undertaken by a coalition of interested partners over the next six months.

  1. The formation of an events observatory to marshal evidence and data on the long-term impacts of events.

There are many leading academics and researchers exploring the impact of events, some of whom shared their work with this inquiry. There is also significant work being done to improve the impact evaluation of events themselves at a policy level, from DCMS’s work on valuing cultural heritage capital, to UK Sport’s increased focus on social impact. Organisations such as What Works Centre for Wellbeing, whose work is referred to several times in this report, have done much to bring together evidence on some of the themes covered here from volunteering to culture and physical activity. 

However the inquiry believes there is a role for dedicated resource specifically focused on supporting events to deliver lasting and measurable social outcomes across the various mechanisms deployed by events (sport, arts, volunteering etc).

This could be housed within an existing university department or research institution. The observatory would support policymakers and event organisers to: 

  •       Look across different types of events, ensuring culture, sport, commemoration etc are learning from what has worked (and what hasn’t) rather than operating in silos; 
  •       Explore the role of different types of events as one factor in a wider system of change;
  •       Take the long view, capturing outcomes that do not occur within the timeframe of traditional event evaluations, and after those that measure legacy have often concluded; 
  •       Look at the collective impact of events within a place or time frame linking to local data sets;
  •       Be independent rather than beholden to funder and commissioner objectives;
  •       Provide a learning bank to support continuous improvement;
  •       Mitigate against a tendency for evaluations to either be overly positive or highly critical;
  •       Develop an overarching theory of change for events, that is not dependent on a specific mechanism like arts or sports