When sports organisations and event organisers meet to discuss various aspects of sports events, the word ‘legacy’ is often mentioned. An event must ‘leave a legacy behind’ and the basic idea of ‘event legacy’ is to focus not only on the period of the actual event but even more on the years following the event.

It seems to be important for sports organisations to stress the legacy aspects of their events and to debate infrastructural legacy, social legacy, sporting legacy, etc. But maybe it is time to rethink the whole idea of focusing on ‘legacy’ in connection with major sports events– or at least considering changing the time perspective related to development of such legacy.

When planning a major sports event, many sports organisations and host cities tend to view the years leading up to the event as a period of preparation – the focus is on the time of the event and on the legacy that this event will create afterwards.

Such a perspective, inspired by a focus on ‘leaving a legacy behind’, might be wrong, because experience from most major sports events held over the last decade clearly shows that the years leading up to the event are by far the best time to generate benefits – not the years following the event.

When a city has been awarded a major sporting event, like Paris securing the 2024 Olympic Games, the city suddenly become an exciting sports city with many opportunities, from sports development, to business and marketing opportunities, etc.  There is a clear focus creating a high level of energy over the coming six-seven years. But already a few months after the event, everyone will be moving on to the next event, the focus will change, Paris 2024 will be in the past and whatever amount of legacy planning work has been done will never change that.

Today we all – and certainly the younger generation – live a “projectised” life with very short attention spans and always looking forward to the next new thing. “After the event” basically does not exist anymore because it will always be “before” something else. An event, however, can create a fantastic impact in the years leading up to it, due to the excitement, energy and motivation generated.

Before is simply much more exciting and engaging than after so host cities should prioritise pre-games legacy – and if done really well, something might remain also after the event.