Volunteer sustainability in a sport context: observations from grassroots participation through to mega-events

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Volunteers are the lifeblood of sporting organizations in Australia and globally. However, research has shown that there are differences between everyday volunteers for sporting organizations and volunteers at major sport events, and there are cultural differences to volunteering. More recently within major event research, legacy has become a significant focus of event organizers and local organizing committees as a way of adding social value to the economic significance of the investment by host cities. This seminar will present three levels of volunteer engagement and discuss observations on legacy at: 1. The Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympics; 2. The 2009 Sydney World Masters Games; and 3. Community development projects using sport events. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics together with the cultural Olympiad required a commitment by 20,000 volunteers in the high status mega-sporting event. Some 5000 volunteers assisted the Sydney World Masters Games to host more than 28,000 athletes across 72 venues predominantly in Western Sydney in one of the biggest multisport participant major events held in world. The research for both sport events involved pre-and post examination of volunteer motivations, expectations, experiences and legacy. Sport for Development Projects in Sri Lanka, Israel and the Pacific Islands utilize volunteers at a ‘grass roots’ level to guide and facilitate the creation of sport event activities designed to benefit people in disadvantaged communities or communities in conflict. In these contexts, international volunteers from outside of the community setting are used to facilitate the sport event. An interpretive qualitative approach to examining volunteer legacy was employed. The workshop examines volunteer legacy of these three sport events against Dickson, Benson and Blackman's (2011) framework for evaluating Olympic and Paralympic legacy. In doing so, the findings highlight volunteer management practices, motivations, experiences, challenges and volunteering legacies arising from these sport event volunteer programs. In a workshop format attendees will have an opportunity to discuss strategies for enhancing legacies for host communities and countries considering the cultural context of volunteering, sport and events.
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