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A number of past Olympics failed to increase citizens’ sports participation in the host nations, despite such a boost being billed as a benefit of holding the Games, an international team has found.

The research team analyzed changes in participation in sports and other physical activity before and after eight Olympic Games held in and after 1996, according to the team’s study recently published in the online edition of Britain’s medical journal The Lancet.

“The brand value of the Olympics has not been utilized sufficiently” to increase population-based physical activity, said University of Tokyo lecturer Masamitsu Kamada, a member of the research team.

Kamada stressed the need for governments, municipalities and sponsor companies to work together on long-term goals that inspire citizens to play sports. Part of this is making opportunities to participate in sports and other physical activities widely available.

The team analyzed five summer Games, including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and three winter Games, including the 1998 Nagano Olympics, for which at least three surveys have been conducted on the impact of the sporting event on sports participation.

Out of the Games studied, the results showed that there was no increase in sports participation or physical activity aside from the 1998 Nagano Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The research team, however, said that data on the impact of the Beijing Olympics may be insufficient and that the increase in participation in Nagano may not be attributable to the Games since there was no change in participation in winter sports such as skiing.

The team also studied internet search data in Great Britain before and after the 2012 London Olympics.

The data showed that searches with the term “Olympic” decreased sharply soon after the London Games, while searches with the term “exercise” continued to increase for several years.

Meanwhile, there was no increase in sports participation in Britain, indicating that people who became interested in sports did not act on it.

With more people working from home and generally staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, “the importance of physical activity is increasing,” said Kamada, adding that “it’s important to encourage people to exercise.”

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