Expert Opinion

A legacy for Leeds

In this post, Nicola McCullough, Senior Lecturer in Sport Business Management at Leeds Beckett, reflects on the potential legacy of the Rio Olympics and Paralympics for Leeds.

The Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics this summer has delivered an amazing spectacle of human achievement, belief and tenacity. With much of the negative rhetoric prior to the Games in relation to the political and economic climate in Rio de Janeiro, mega events like the Olympics are transformational vehicles that not only radically change the infrastructure of a host city but exert their positive influence to all of the countries participating. Whether this be through embracing the community spirit within a host city, promoting that “feel good” factor or repositioning the reputation of a nation. Rio de Janeiro had to expose its identity (whether good or bad) to the world and alongside the financial cost of the Games, it created and has generated monumental sporting achievements and unique memories for the thousands of spectators, athletes, professionals, volunteers and technical officials.


For me, the event became the Brazillian Games, the first time ever, the Olympics has been staged in South America, showcasing the passion, flamboyance and dedication of an aspiring nation. The Games has delivered a clear legacy to a generation – that through challenging times of instability and uncertainty, the world can be entertained in an inspirational way and a continent’s ambition can be embraced.


The Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics have delivered the true values of Olympism – Friendship, Respect and Excellence and the Paralympic values of Determination, Inspiration, Courage and Equality. And it is these values that now transcend after the Games have ended, into our local city of Leeds through our own outstanding athletes and their coaches, who have delivered a Games for us Yorkshire folk to be proud of, particularly at Leeds Beckett University. We have a proud history of sporting excellence not just in Leeds but at the University too. Alongside this, we also have inspirational alumni and current staff that were involved with the Rio Olympics and Paralympics who not only performed on a world stage this summer and added to our sporting greatness as a city but will now and in future years, promote and inspire young and old to fulfil their sporting potential through participating in sport across Leeds and throughout Yorkshire.


Leeds Beckett graduate Dame Sarah Storey became the most decorated British female Paralympian of all time after winning gold in the C5 3,000m individual pursuit cycling during the Games. It was her 12th gold medal at the Paralympics since taking part in her first Games in Barcelona in 1992. And who can forget the awe-inspiring performance of the Brownlee brothers (Alistair is again one of our own graduates) who surpassed all expectations by winning historic gold and silver medals in the Triathlon.


Mega events must have a clear vision and strategy as to what they want to achieve on a local, national and international level. Our very own born and bred sporting heroes were part of this strategy and it is now up to us to ensure they receive the recognition and appreciation they deserve for successfully showcasing our great city. Leeds is our very own international sporting centre of excellence. We will all come together to celebrate our Rio Hero’s Homecoming on September 28th in our beautiful city and expect a new breed of Leeds sporting heroes will deliver for us once again in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.