Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Olympic Legacy and Parks and Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Olympic Legacy and Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

On July 19, 1996, the eyes of the world will be on Atlanta for the opening ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games. Two-thirds of the world's population will join 80,000 spectators to watch 10,500 athletes from almost 200 nations compete. Over the course of 16 days, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) will make history by implementing 271 medal events in 26 sports while hosting over two million visitors. On August 4, the closing ceremonies will conclude the world's greatest sporting event and the torch will be passed to Sydney, Australia for the next summer Olympic Games in 2000.

The Olympic tradition will move to another country, but the effect on parks and recreation in the United States will continue into the 21st century. The public will learn about new sports and be ready to participate in all types of athletic endeavors. To fully understand the impact of the Olympic Games, consider the following facts:

* More than 3,700 women are scheduled to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games. This is the largest number of women ever and about 600 more than the number of women who competed during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. This year, women will be competing for the first time in football (soccer) and softball. In addition, new women's events have been added to swimming, track and field, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, and shooting.

* Both men and women will be competing for the first time in beach volleyball. Sponsorship dollars and television time have already greatly increased for this sport over the last five years.

* Since 1985, mountain bike sales have tripled. One of every two bicycles sold is a mountain bike. As a new Olympic sport in 1996 for men and women, mountain bike racing is one of the top growing sports in the United States and rising steadily throughout Europe.

* After the synchronized swimming solo and duet events were introduced at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, youth programs increased by 80%. This year, the team event has replaced the solo and duet events.

* Since the women's world soccer championships were introduced five years ago in China, soccer participation levels have skyrocketed. In America, soccer has become one of the top two sports for both boys and girls, and has replaced football as the leading sport at the youth level.

* The 2000 Olympic program in Sydney, Australia has added two new sports to date, taekwondo and biathlon. The success of triathlon--the swim-bike-run sport--has gone from a handful of participants to over two million athletes in the last 20 years.

All of these statistics impact parks and recreation by reflecting the direction in which certain sports are moving. In order to be considered on the summer Olympic program, a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in at least 40 countries and on three continents. Sports are admitted seven years before specific Olympic Games and events are admitted four years before actual the Games.

For example, aquatics is a sport, swimming is a discipline, and men's 100 meter freestyle is an event. To be successful, events must have mass appeal, proven television marketability and a strong base of development programs.

Parks and recreation agencies play a major role in the long-term success of sports by becoming aware of them when they are new and being ready to take advantage of the opportunities they offer. Youth development programs, competitive leagues and multi-purpose sport facilities can help popularize new sports, but require extensive preparation.

For example, mountain bike racing appeals to the notion that anyone and everyone can participate. Therefore, it reaches a wide audience, including families. Increased interest in this sport has already impacted the use of park trails, resulting in a necessary cooperative effort between riders, hikers and horseback riders. …

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