Games offer research gold

July 15, 2005

A jobs and research bonanza is being predicted as universities prepare for the rise of the "Olympic subjects" in the run-up to the 2012 games in London.

Team London's successful bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games is likely to bring with it a wealth of opportunities for academics and students alike, and not just in sports science.

Other Olympic-related subject areas include hospitality, events management, tourism, urban regeneration, the environment, volunteering and social and cultural studies. They could all see increases in student numbers and research funding.

Many of these subjects have not always been seen as mainstream to academia.

Craig Mahoney, chairman of the British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences and dean of Wolverhampton University's School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, says that the London Games could lead to their being taken more seriously in the UK.

"There are still people who look on people such as me with curiosity and indignation," he said. "It's a chance for us to establish ourselves in the pecking order."

Professor Mahoney said there would be pressure on the Government to put money into sports science, as there would be a need for well-qualified graduates able to organise, manage and run the Games. This in turn could mean that more university teachers would be needed.

Universities are anticipating an increase in research contracts and consultancy as a result of the Olympics coming to London.

Ian Henry, co-director of the Centre for Olympic Studies and Research based at Loughborough University, said: "There is a lot of potential income - and prestige."

Hosting the Games will help UK universities to attract leading academics, he added. "People are keen to be associated with the (host) country. It will allow us to put together a high-quality network internationally, which can only be a good thing."

Judging by what has happened in other host countries, student demand for Olympic-related qualifications could snowball.

There are still large numbers of Greek students at Loughborough University on its sports masters courses after the 2004 Games in Athens, while the number of Chinese applicants has been increasing as Beijing's 2008 Games near.

Hosting the Olympics can only enhance the student experience, according to Debi Hayes, head of the marketing and operations department at Greenwich University's Business School.

She explained that building close links with local businesses and groups involved in the huge task of organising the Games offered opportunities for work-based student learning.

"This will be very appealing for those working in these areas for the Olympics," she said. "Those coming out of events management degrees now will have great opportunities."

Meanwhile, many universities hope to earn extra income by acting as training camps for athletes. Campus-based institutions with good sports facilities, accommodation and hospitality will vie for overseas teams, which could begin training as early as 2008.

caroline.davis@thes.co.uk  

OLYMPIC UNIVERSITIES

  • The University of East London will be a partner in the Aquatic Centre, which will host watersport events, and the London Olympic Institute (LOI), dedicated to the advancement of Olympic principles
  • Greenwich University's Maritime campus is in the Olympic River Zone and will be used to support the pentathlon and equestrian events being held in Royal Greenwich Park. Three of its campuses will provide accommodation for athletes while its sports scientists will work with the LOI
  • Queen Mary's, University of London, department of sports and exercise medicine will provide clinical support for the British team and other athletes
  • Essex University is bidding for Olympic facilities and believes that its proximity to the Games will draw other countries' teams to train there
  • Loughborough University has been talking to the Chinese team about being a possible training base for 2012. The university is home to the East Midlands hub of the English Institute of Sport (EIS). It has world-class sports facilities and has more than 100 potential Olympians among its students
  • Bath University's world-class facilities are home to EIS Southwest and several national sports teams
  • London Higher (a consortium of 44 London universities and colleges) has 10,000 beds for officials, media and visitors and has set up a student volunteer working group

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