The hosting of major sports events provide many benefits for the host cities including increased funding for infrastructure and development. However, less is known on the impact on specific population groups. Project Echo is an online research forum seeking to understand the post-games effects of hosting the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 Pan American Games/ Para Pan American Games in Toronto. The forum is designed to enable as much flexibility and adaptability to capture the voices of people with disabilities living in the host city or surrounding areas and those who participated in the games. It allows them to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences on a range of areas including accessibility, participation opportunities, transport and infrastructure.
The current climate over recent months has all but eradicated the opportunities to be physically active, particularly for people with disabilities and those who are shielding therefore this is providing an interesting area of discussion for people. In order to access sport or physical activity, some people with disabilities rely on others to assist with transport and specialised facilities or organised activities. This support has been removed leaving a number of people unable to maintain pre lockdown levels of activity. Research shows the important, positive impact on both physical and mental health of remaining active which has, in part, been linked to the positive social environment created (White et al. 2017). We have already seen how many organisations and individuals are adapting to a new way of life, to allow them to continue to provide ways for people to be active, but how does this work practically for people with disabilities? What lessons can be learned for the future?
The UK has seen a surge in awareness of parasport since London 2012 with increases in participation, media coverage, funding and general public awareness. The Commonwealth Games operate in a different format with para sports taking place alongside non-parasports. Glasgow 2014 saw the biggest number of para sport medals being contested at a single Commonwealth Games at that time with further increases occurring in the Gold Coast 2018 and the Birmingham 2022 event continuing this trend by adding two further parasports. Whilst this shows increased recognition for elite parasports, Project Echo allows us to also understand the impact of these events for recreational and casual participants and also those who do not participate in sport or physical activity as well as for elite athletes.
On our research forum, www.theechoproject.org, people can register for free and add their voice to a range of discussion topics including the impact of covid-19, accessibility, transportation, the impact of the media as well as listening to interviews and discussions held with a range of speakers. Additionally, we encourage people to start their own discussion on a topic relevant to them or to take part in one of our focus groups. To find out more about what groups people can sign up to, follow us on our social media. Tweet us or follow us on Facebook on @projectecho2020, on Instagram @proj.echo or search theechoproject on Linkedin. We want to make sure your voice is heard.