Leveraging Legacies: Will the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games really benefit public health?

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Marc Steven Mitchell
Heather Manson
Ken Allison
Jennifer Robertson
Peter Donnelly
Jack Goodman


Anniversaries and special events, Public health, Sports


Toronto and the surrounding area will host the $1.4 billion Pan/Parapan American Games in 2015 (TO2015). TO2015’s 2009 bid document, Your Moment is Here, outlines the anticipated societal benefits, or legacies, of the Games. In this document, TO2015 organizers describe the potential for the Games to create positive ‘public health’ legacies in particular. Public health legacies are operationally defined as all those elements assuring the conditions for populations to be healthy (e.g., access to affordable housing, public transit, and recreation opportunities). We argue that unless certain mechanisms are in place, TO2015 is unlikely to produce all the purported public health benefits outlined in its bid document. While some mechanisms may be in place to facilitate positive public health legacies from TO2015, others are notably absent. In view of persisting global economic instability and government austerity, TO2015 legacies should not be considered as an automatic ‘trickle down’ or by-product – rather, they need to be planned for, organized, and funded in the same way as TO2015. The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London offer an opportunity to reflect on TO2015 and whether mechanisms are in place to produce long-lasting public health benefits from the Games.