The Organizing Committee’s Perspective

Authored by: Milena M. Parent

Routledge Handbook of Sports Event Management

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415858649
eBook ISBN: 9780203798386
Adobe ISBN: 9781135104306




The organizing committee is at the centre of the sport event’s planning. Taking mainly an organization theory perspective – through integrating organizational behaviour and other perspectives throughout – I provide an overview of what an organizing committee is, its structure and functions, and who is included within it (e.g. staff, secondees, consultants, volunteers, contractors). Next, I briefly present the various stakeholder relationships the organizing committee has. I also critically discuss research associated with organizing committees, focusing notably on their role in relation to normative aspects such as legacy. After discussing issues and gaps in the literature, I conclude by suggesting future research directions.

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The Organizing Committee’s Perspective


The organizing committee is at the centre of the sport event’s planning. Taking mainly an organization theory perspective – through integrating organizational behaviour and other perspectives throughout – I provide an overview of what an organizing committee is, its structure and functions, and who is included within it (e.g. staff, secondees, consultants, volunteers, contractors). Next, I briefly present the various stakeholder relationships the organizing committee has. I also critically discuss research associated with organizing committees, focusing notably on their role in relation to normative aspects such as legacy. After discussing issues and gaps in the literature, I conclude by suggesting future research directions.

The organizing committee

The organizing committee is the core of all sports events, be they small or large, local or international, single-sport or multi-sport. In this section, I provide an overview of what the organizing committee is as an organization, its lifecycle, and its internal structure and types of human resources.

What is an organizing committee?

Legally speaking, there are a variety of ways that organizing committees can be formed. For example, there is an increasing number of for-profit organizations, such as Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organization responsible for hosting the Tour de France. Some are created within the purview of a host (typically national) government. However, most major sport event organizing committees are incorporated as non-profit organizations, foundations, or associations. Thus, by definition, non-profit organizing committee owners and managers cannot keep for themselves any gains (financial or material) stemming from the hosting of the sport event. But what kind of organization is the organizing committee?

At a basic level, the organizing committee can be seen as a sport organization (Slack and Parent 2006):

  • it is a social entity as it can employ thousands of workforce members (paid staff members, volunteers, secondees, contractors) over the course of its existence;
  • it is involved in the sport industry and is goal directed as the organizing committee work-force members work together to plan and implement a sports event;
  • its workforce members are hierarchically structured; and
  • it has an identifiable boundary to distinguish those who are part of (or not part of) the organizing committee.

However, we can also define the organizing committee as a business since it can operate with a budget in the billions of dollars. However, given that it has pre-determined start and end dates, the organizing committee also has characteristics of a project. Moreover, the corporate social responsibility slant – and the pushing of event-based legacies – can also mean that such an organization can be seen as a cause. For example, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games promoted sustainability and safety, whereas certain major sports events (e.g. the Jeux de la Francophonie) and certain countries hosting events such as the United Kingdom (e.g. London 2012 Olympic Games and Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games) emphasize youth and sport development. Next, the fact that the organizing committee is usually created by a set of partners (typically governments and event rights holders) to undertake the task of preparing and hosting the event means that the organization can also be seen as a lead organization in a network of organizations dedicated to achieving their own goals as well as a set of common goals – here planning and hosting the given event as well as leveraging the hosting of the event, and planning and managing the event’s impacts and legacies – or it can be seen as a network administration organization (or NAO, see Provan and Kenis 2007). The difference between the lead organization and NAO is that the lead organization is typically an already existing organization; and given its significant power as compared to other organizations in the network, this organization takes the lead for the ‘project’ (e.g. such as in the case where the organizing committee is part of a government department). In contrast, the NAO is a newly created and separate administrative entity or organization set up by the group of partners, who would, for example, sit on its board of directors. Given that organizing committees can be seen as lead organizations or NAOs, this also means that they can be described as strategic alliances between the set of event partners. Since strategic alliances are partnerships between two or more organizations where learning occurs (Child and Faulkner 1998), it makes sense to think that organizing committees could be seen as strategic alliances given the degree of learning which occurs within the organizing committee, as well as within and between stakeholders through coordination and knowledge management/transfer processes. These alliances can be seen between, potentially, the local, regional, and national governments, as well as the local, regional, national, and international sport governing bodies concerned. Finally, by virtue of the organizing committee being composed of numerous individuals from different backgrounds and including representatives from its core partners (e.g. governments and event rights holders), the organizing committee can be considered a political entity. This is where urban regimes can come into play (e.g. Burbank et al. 2001, Misener and Mason 2008). Certainly, power plays are seen at all levels of the organization. Departments or functions fight for resources, have to negotiate with each other and with stakeholders, and have to make decisions, all of which are fraught with political underpinnings.

Ultimately, though, organizing committees are outsourcing organizations – they have very little time and typically limited resources with which to undertake their responsibilities (unless provided unlimited funds by the host country/region government, which is a rarity in Western countries). This is even truer for smaller events as each organizing committee member often has a wider scope of responsibilities, and therefore less time to think about event outcomes. Conversely, in larger events like the FIFA World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, or the Olympic Games, the larger size of the organizing committee means more task specialization for individuals.

Finally, regardless of the actual form of the organizing committee, it will deal with a number of issues over its lifespan. These include financial; human resource management (HRM); infrastructure, operations, and logistics; legacy; media and visibility; planning and organizing; political; sport/field-of-play; and relationships, participation and interdependence (Parent 2008).

Organizing committee lifecycle

Unlike most festivals and recurring sports events, one-off sports events usually have formal bid processes. The bid committee is in existence for one to three years, on average, depending on the exact major sport event bidding process. Bids can be classified as (Chappelet 2005):

  • Real bids: intense competition, even at the national level; complex requirements; the intrinsic quality of the site; support for the bid on the local level; and interregional cooperation are important factors in a successful bid.
  • Alibi bids: bids are undertaken to garner media attention for the bidder, despite there being no realistic chance of winning; it is about promoting the host region.
  • Replacement bids: if an event cannot take place where originally scheduled, the rights owner may attribute it to another host region without having a formal bid procedure.
  • Tacit bids: if an event does not attract many bids, the event rights owner may attribute one edition of the event to each bidder as the owner still requires bids to be filed.
  • Warm-up bids: bids are undertaken to raise the bidder’s profile by bidding for a minor sport event first with the objective of hosting a major competition later.

Next, the bid committee can be formed by a given city (e.g. the Oslo bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games) or by a nation (e.g. France’s successful bid for the 2013 Jeux de la Francophonie). Sometimes, bids are led by promoters; oftentimes, there are real estate and business interests behind bids for mega sports events (Shaw 2008). If the bid committee is successful in obtaining the right to host the event, it enters a transition period of ideally no more than eight months, where the bid organization is disbanded and an organizing committee is created. More precisely, this means that the organization is incorporated (usually as a non-profit organization) and its top leader is hired/named. The organizing committee then typically has between two and seven years to plan the event (Parent 2008).

The bid and transition periods are in fact the beginning of the planning mode of the organizing committee, which lasts for about half of the organization’s life. This means that for a smaller event that has only two years to prepare for the event, such as a national championship, it is in planning mode for a year. During this time, the organizing committee will develop its (Parent 2008):

  • business plan: mission/vision/goals/principles, overview of agreements and contract information, terms of reference, budget and financial management/control, and overview of key senior executives;
  • operational plan: highlights the responsibilities to be fulfilled by functional area (FA) and extends the terms of reference by answering what has to be done, who will do it and who will assist, when will it be done, where will it be done, and how will it be done; and
  • divisional plans: each FA is to provide a description of the work to be completed, the scope and exclusions, provisional timelines, major contracts, and overall costs.

The organizing committee then moves into its implementation mode (Parent 2008). At this point, it starts integrating plans by venue (venue plans); creates a venue team (VTeam or mini organizing committee) for each venue – competition and non-competition; prepares and undergoes venuization, which is the move from headquarters into the venues; and culminates in the Games-time period. Once the closing ceremonies are over, the organizing committee enters its final mode, the wrap-up mode, which includes dealing with any legal issues, decommissioning venues, completing any evaluation procedures, writing final reports, closing the accounts, and managing any legacies (Parent 2008). One-off events then cease to exist, usually within a year of the end of the event, while recurring events re-enter the planning mode for the next event.

Organizing committee staff and structure

Organizing committee structures will vary depending on the type and size of the event, the event schedule and complexity (one or multiple venues, patterns of activity, etc.), the staff balance requirements and degree of expertise, as well as the context or event location (Shone and Parry 2004, Parent and Smith-Swan 2013). For example, a local figure skating competition will be run mainly in one venue (i.e. an ice arena) and planned within less than a year by volunteers; in contrast, the Winter Youth Olympic Games, in which we find figure skating, includes many other sports – thus multiple venues – and takes upwards of five years to plan for by both paid staff and volunteers. In the next section, I discuss the different types of staff or workforce in sports events as well as organizing committee structure.

Organizing committee workforce

The types of workforce an event can have vary; they include full-time or part-time paid staff, pre-event and event-time volunteers, secondees, consultants, contractors, and event gypsies, those individuals that move from one event to the next (Parent and Smith-Swan 2013). The larger and more complex the event, the more likely one is to find a variety of workforce members.

Regardless of the size of the sport event, the organizing committee leadership group (i.e. the President/Chief Executive Officer or CEO, his/her Chief Operating Officer or COO, Chief Financial Officer or CFO and any other senior executive) are critical hires as they set the tone for the organizing committee through the writing of the business plan (e.g. mission, vision, values and principles) and setting up of the organizing committee structure (Parent and Smith-Swan 2013). The sport event organizing committee leaders must have a range of skills that evolve as the organizing committee evolves (Parent et al. 2009a):

  • planning mode: networking, access to resources, HRM, communication/public relations, credibility, and financial skills;
  • implementation mode: networking, HRM, and organization skills; and
  • wrap-up mode: networking, HRM, financial, recognition, and legacy management skills.

As can be seen, networking and HRM skills are critical. Regarding networking, the leaders should have networks in politics, sports, and business (Parent and Séguin 2008). These areas also provide areas in which the leaders should have skills (Parent et al. 2009b). As these areas represent a wide-ranging set of skills, it is possible (and likely) that the ‘leader’ not be a single individual, but a group of two or three individuals, who collectively have the necessary skill set. Parent and Séguin (2008) demonstrated this possibility in their study of the leadership of the 2005 Montreal FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) World Aquatics Championships. The 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was also led by a team of three people (two Co-chairmen and one Director General).

There is significant work done on event workforce under the organizational behaviour banner. A particular interest is volunteer motivation, commitment, and satisfaction (e.g. Farrell et al. 1998, Costa et al. 2006, Ferrand and Chanavat 2006, Maclean and Hamm 2007, Bang et al. 2009, Funk et al. 2009, Jarvis and Blank 2011). As they are a key part of all types of sports events, they are the subject of a full chapter in this book (see Chapter 4 for more information on volunteers). There is emerging work related to other types of workforce. Xing has examined the work of paid staff of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). She found that paid staff members’ daily work experiences were characterized by bureaucracy, mundane tasks, feeling privileged, and feeling that members’ immediate work environment was nurturing (Xing and Chalip 2009). She also found that Chinese national identity and working towards organizing the Olympic Games were factors that affected paid staff members’ commitment to organizational success (Heere and Xing 2012). As paid staff moved from planning to implementation, pressure to do a good job increased as did uncertainty concerning post-Games job prospects; ‘the significance of the work was seen in the value of the Games to the country and a better understanding of Chinese society’ (Xing and Chalip 2012: 375). Taking an organization theory perspective, Parent and Slack (2007) discussed the structural factors that influenced paid staff-volunteer relationships; these included: organizational design (e.g. leadership, effective organizational structure, clarity in roles and responsibilities, and managing the venuization process from the headquarters to the venues), communication, coordination, and cooperation, as well as one’s personal resources (e.g. competencies and skills, networks, and knowledge). Finally, Cashman (2006), Cashman and Harris (2012), and Parent and Smith-Swan (2013) noted the importance of individuals who move from one event to the next; however, such examples are usually taken from Olympic Games, not smaller events. Thus, there is much more work needed to examine not only Games gypsies in the Olympic Games and other sports events but also the other types of workforce.

HRM is a key process in managing sports events. Parent and Smith-Swan (2013) suggested an HRM roadmap for sports events that includes the following steps:

  1. hiring the leader;
  2. creating the business plan – including the mission, vision, and values;
  3. determining the organizing committee’s structure;
  4. beginning the HRM planning by doing needs assessments, job analyses, and job descriptions;
  5. creating HRM policies and procedures, such as those for pay scales, benefits, work conditions, and record-keeping;
  6. proceeding with workforce recruitment by advertising jobs, screening applicants, interviewing them, and hiring them;
  7. training the workforce, which should include a combination of general orientation, job-specific training, volunteer management, team leading, conflict management, venuespecific training, and safety training;
  8. supervising the work and providing feedback and evaluation;
  9. recognizing the work of workforce members and starting to help with post-Games career prospects through career development and résumé building workshops as well as job searches/opportunities; and
  10. wrapping-up the event.

However, as for research on the types of staff, HRM processes in events, especially different types of events (one-off versus recurring, local versus national versus international, etc.), require further examination by researchers.

Organizing committee structure

Regarding structure, most organizing committees have a Board of Directors of some sort, composed of volunteers who represent the key stakeholders and their main interests. If the event is part of a larger sport organization, it may be composed solely of that organization’s paid/volunteer staff. If the event is large, the organizing committee will likely have a volunteer Board of Directors headed by a Chairman as well as paid senior executives headed by a CEO/President.

Because sports events are functionally-based organizations, the organizing committee divides itself into division, departments, and/or FAs by key function. Organizing committees usually divide tasks according to accreditation, finance, legal, logistics, operations, overlay, marketing and sponsorship, communications, sport services, delegation services, media, protocol and stakeholder relations, language services, workforce, construction and venue management (including accommodations), medical, security, and cultural/festivals and ceremonies responsibilities, to name a few key areas. Major sports events can have upwards of 50 FAs. It is therefore not surprising that the organizing committee wants to outsource some of its responsibilities to various stakeholders (e.g. security and venue construction).

The FAs form the basis of the departments or committee structures where most operational-level decisions are made. This is also where we find the middle- and lower-managers, as well as the volunteers. These individuals are typically only hired within the last half of the planning period (often only within the last year or few months before the event), and are overseen by the executive committee, that is, the top paid staff member (CEO, etc.) and his/her immediate subordinates such as (executive) vice-presidents. This executive committee is hired within the first half of the planning period (e.g. within the first two years for an Olympic Games).

Only the Board of Directors are present from the start of the organizing committee’s life. It is at this level that the business plan, final budgets, and large procurement contracts are approved. It is also at this level where we can find political/power processes occurring – as in cases where an event is used for political/growth purposes and (formal and informal) tensions between the organizing committee and core partners are negotiated (see the growth imperative and urban regime theory; Logan and Molotch 1989, Stone 1989, 1993, Stoker 1995). The Board of Directors is also considered to be the focal organization when examining an event’s general stakeholder map – the paid staff and volunteers are an internal stakeholder to be managed by the higher echelon of the organization (see Parent and Deephouse 2007, Parent 2008). One could potentially view the Board of Directors (and possibly the top executive managers) as the political half of the organization and the middle/lower levels (including the volunteers) as the operational half of the organization. This may provide an interesting point of view when examining the roles, responsibilities, and decisions/actions of the organizing committee in relation to key files such as construction (capital projects), transportation, and sustainability and legacy management, given the potential disconnect between the political and operational halves of the organization.

Within the literature, there are a few suggestions as to how to classify organizing committee structure and design. Getz (2005) suggested four structures:

  1. A loose alliance of independent organizations which, together, produce the event. For example, each stage of the Tour de France is actually organized by the local government or tourism organizations, and the general/overall coordination is done by the ASO.
  2. A more formal alliance where one group or specially created event production organization leads the event organization. For example, the Glasgow 2014 organizing committee in charge of preparing to host the Commonwealth Games is led by a board of directors which includes representatives from its key partners (governments and Commonwealth Games Scotland), an athletes’ representative, and independent directors (Glasgow 2014 Ltd. n.d.-a).
  3. An organization within which we find sub-contracted affiliates. For example, FIFA, has, under its purview, six regional or continental associations such as UEFA (Union of European Football Association) and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), each of which organizes their own sets of regional tournaments in order to determine the qualifying teams for the FIFA World Cup.
  4. A composite event which embodies a set of sub-events with distinct organizations. For example, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend includes a variety of sub-events throughout the two-day event such as the Y Kids, 5K, 10K, half- and full-marathon, the latter being an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Silver Label event (Run Ottawa 2013).

An emerging structure can be seen with certain sports organizations retaining the event management expertise in-house: a department within the organization is dedicated to preparing and hosting events in its territory and only creating a local organizing committee for local operations and logistics. For example, Skate Canada takes all major decisions when hosting the world figure skating championships in Canada; it appoints a local organizing committee for local issues only. As is the case with Skate Canada and many other national governing bodies (NGBs), the event is awarded to the NGB which outsources its mission to a Local Organizing Committee (LOC) created with the local and regional authorities.

Internally, Theodoraki (2007) used Mintzberg’s (1979) configurations to describe Olympic Games Organizing Committee (OCOG) structures. Building on the idea that organizations have a lifecycle – from birth to death (Mintzberg 1979) – she suggested that OCOGs coordinate activities through a standardization of work processes during the planning mode; they then move to standardizing outputs and skills during Games-time. She suggests that in themselves, OCOGs are hybrid organizations composed of elements from the divisionalized form and missionary design types. In contrast, Parent and Séguin (2010) used the organizational change literature, in particular the contextualist approach (Pettigrew 1985, 1987), and the concept of organizational routines (Feldman and Pentland 2003, Pentland and Feldman 2005) to examine the changes in major sport event committees. By examining the content (what), process (how) and context (why) of changes (Pettigrew 1985, 1987) in two major sport event organizing committees and combining this information with the description of ostensive (abstract/general idea of the routine) and performative (specific actions taken) routines (Feldman and Pentland 2003, Pentland and Feldman 2005), they were able to develop a description of sport event organizing committee structures. Parent and Séguin argued that organizing committees are initially headquarter-centred, developing their ostensive routines:

the board of directors and senior executives are concerned with the overall direction of the organizing committee and finding the appropriate resources (financial and human) to have a successful event. It is during this period that strategic plans, rules, policies, and procedures are developed and anticipated changes can be planned.

(2010: 11)

Once the organizing committee is in its implementation mode, it transfers or ‘venuises’ its activities and staff to the various venues for the Games-time period, thereby moving to a

The routinization of change in major sport event organizing committees

Figure 3.1   The routinization of change in major sport event organizing committees

venue-centred structure (Parent and Séguin 2010). Planning moves from being vertical to horizontal (coordination between functions), and plans are being executed (performative routines) by the various workforce members. After the event is over, the venues are decommissioned and most workforce members have left; thus, the organizing committee is once again headquarter-centred but still engaged in performative routines (Parent and Séguin 2010), those associated with closing the books, writing final reports, and managing the legacies (Parent 2008). Parent and Séguin (2010) also noted how flexibility and action-reaction-interaction describe the process of change, as well as how leadership, resources, and internal and external (sport/government) political contexts impact the changes in structure and routines. Figure 3.1 illustrates and integrates these various elements. One could assume that such routines become ‘normalised’ in recurring events; however, this would be an issue for future study, as would organizational structure examination in smaller, single-sport, and recurring events.

Organizing committees’ stakeholder relationships

Irrespective of the legal incorporation or one’s particular view on the nature of the organizing committee as an organization, the organizing committee has a set of stakeholders which it needs to successfully undertake its responsibilities and with which it must deal. Following Parent (2008) and Chappelet (2012), organizing committees are at the centre of the stakeholder network. They deal with the following external stakeholders to accomplish their tasks (Parent 2008, Parent and Smith-Swan 2013):

  • Governments (national, regional/state/provincial, and municipal): the governments typically provide financial support (through grants for example) and guarantees for the event, as well as often seconding some of their employees for larger events and facilitating venue building and use (and eventual turnover back to the government’s jurisdiction and/or local community). They are also in charge of key aspects for international events such as immigration/visas (entry into the country) and security. At the local level, municipal governments provide municipal services (e.g. road closures, law enforcement agency support, garbage pick-up) that are within their jurisdiction.
  • Community: The community is composed of not only the local residents (and potential tourists), but also local businesses, community organizations/groups, schools, sport commissions, tourism and business bureaus, commerce boards, economic/tourism/sport development organizations, and activist groups (e.g. anti-event, pro-environment, anti-poverty; Parent 2008). These individuals and organizations form the set of taxpayers (to ‘support’ the actions of their governments) and the potential spectators/visitors to the event – and thus a potential source of revenue through tickets and merchandising/licensing, as well as hotel stays and restaurant expenses.
  • Sport organizations/federations (international, continental, national, state/provincial/regional, and local): sport organizations provide the official sanctioning or permission to host the event, but they also provide the rules and regulations for the actual sport competitions to be held, as well as the technical officials and other referees to provide technical expertise, oversee the proper functioning of the event and approve the fields of play before competition begins.
  • Media (broadcast, press (written and photographic), radio, internet/social/new media): media provide financial resources through the purchasing of the right to broadcast the event if the event is big enough to garner broadcasting rights interest, as well as provide coverage of the actual event and visibility for both the event and its sponsors and partners.
  • Sponsors: sponsors provide financial and in-kind resources to the organizing committee, as well as visibility when sponsors activate their sponsorship through cross-promotions. They are typically a category in themselves for major and mega sports events. However, for smaller community- or heritage-sports events, sponsors are often local businesses, which are usually found within the community stakeholder group (see above).
  • Delegations (athletes, coaches, and other support staff): the local, regional, national, or international delegations provide the actual athletes who will compete at the said event.
  • Other organizations: there is a variety of organizations with which an organizing committee may deal given its particular event and/or location. Examples of such organizations include the United Nations, UNESCO, Greenpeace, indigenous and other minority groups, and consultants (e.g. bid promoters, experts in particular areas). These organizations can provide specific services, advice, or even become partners in the event.

Parent (2005) found that major sport event organizing committees communicated with the governments and community the most, followed by the sport organizations/federations and media.

Proper stakeholder relationship building, management, and client services are critical for organizing committees. Each FA manager (e.g. marketing, sport, construction, delegations services, and press operations) needs to build relationships with specific external stakeholders. Although the organizing committee outsources most of the responsibilities, it must be aware of and oftentimes approve plans and decisions made by the external stakeholders. The exact distribution of responsibilities is issue specific; in the next section, I provide an example of responsibility distribution between an organizing committee and its stakeholders for the legacy file.

Research themes and challenges

As seen above, key areas of research regarding organizing committees include the staff (e.g. Xing and Chalip 2009, 2012) and structure of the organizing committees (e.g. Theodoraki 2001, 2007); but many gaps remain. There is also a range of work describing organizing committee relationships with key stakeholders such as governments (e.g. Parent et al. 2011a), sponsors (Séguin et al. 2010), and the community (O’Brien 2007, Schulenkorf et al. 2011, VanWynsberghe et al. 2011, Ziakas and Costa 2011). Research associated with each of these stakeholders is described in the other chapters of this Handbook.

One issue currently being considered and warranting continued focus is the role of organizing committees in sustainability, legacy, and leveraging events for broader social, economic, and environmental development and benefits for the host region. Research has grown exponentially regarding these and other normative aspects such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) (e.g. Cashman 2006, Preuss 2007b, Chappelet 2008, Girginov and Hills 2008, Smith 2009, Walker et al. 2010, Cornelissen et al. 2011, Frawley and Cush 2011, Girginov 2011, Leopkey and Parent 2012, Minnaert 2012, VanWynsberghe et al. 2012). Although similar in many ways, the concepts are distinct. While legacy can be seen as the positive and negative outcomes and impacts of an event, (social and economic) leveraging (see Chalip 2004, O’Brien 2007, O’Brien and Chalip 2008) is more a function of stakeholders using the event as a tool, vehicle, or mechanism to accrue benefits of their own. In contrast, sustainability – although increasingly used interchangeably with legacy and sometimes even as a concept which encompasses legacy – is focused on three main pillars (social, economic, environmental) with an argued fourth pillar (human) in sport (for more information, see Horton and Zakus 2010, Cornelissen et al. 2011, Parent and Smith-Swan 2013). All these activities could be seen as CSR activities (Walker and Parent 2010). But what is the role of the organizing committee here in contrast to the event stakeholders?

As non-profits that cease to exist post-event, organizing committees cannot legally keep any (positive) impacts – nor are they held responsible for budget shortfalls for example (this is typically done by a host government). Organizing committees must give back the (positive) impacts in some way, hence the idea of legacies. But in the sport event system, who holds the power and responsibility to ensure ‘positive’ impacts, leveraging, and legacies? The organizing committee’s outsourcing nature does not stop it, or more precisely the bid committee, from promising potential positive impacts and signing contracts on behalf of other organizations. To wit, the bid organization signs a host city contract thereby agreeing to a variety of responsibilities, many clauses of which are not even under its jurisdiction (e.g. immigration and security, which are the jurisdiction of the national government), unless it is created as part of a government department. For these clauses, event owners have come to request guarantees from governments or competent bodies under whose jurisdiction these clauses fall.

The roles and responsibilities of the organizing committee can be seen in the missions set out by various major sport event organizing committees. The following provides examples of missions, roles, and responsibilities for different events:

  • 2012 London Olympic Games (London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games n.d.: 1): ‘The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is responsible for preparing and staging the Games’. In contrast, the Mayor of London and the Nations and Regions Group focused on accruing benefits from the Games for the local and national citizens.
  • 2013 Torino World Masters Games (Torino 2013 World Masters Games 2011: 1): The Association, which is non-profit, is responsible for the organization and staging of the 2013 World Master Games in Piedmont, according to the candidature dossier guidelines presented to the IMGA (International Masters Games Association), by the Promoting Committee and the ‘Host City Contract’ stipulated between Regione Piemonte and IMGA.
  • 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games (Glasgow 2014 Ltd. n.d.-b: 1): ‘Our mission is to organize and deliver the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in a way that fully realises the aspirations of the Glasgow Bid and the contractual obligations of the Host City Contract – on time and on budget’.

What is clear from this small sample is that organizing committees agree to undertake the responsibilities proposed in the bid books and host city agreements; their primary responsibility is to plan and stage the given event. If push comes to shove (e.g. tightening of the budget belt due to recession and lack of time), the objective that is the sole responsibility of the organizing committee (the preparing and staging of the actual event) is protected so that the organizing committee may still be called successful after the event. Other objectives (those associated with impacts, leveraging, and legacies) could be transferred to other stakeholders who already do this as a form of risk management (cf. Leopkey and Parent 2009a, 2009b). Table 3.1 provides an overview of the event’s organizing committee and stakeholders with proposed examples of their areas of responsibilities regarding impacts, leveraging, and legacies based on a review of the existing literature.

As in the case of London 2012, other stakeholders take on the responsibility of leveraging the event, and planning and managing potential impacts and legacies. Moreover, the mission and responsibilities of the organizing committees fall within the pre-event and event-time periods, not the post-event period. This is because the organizing committee officially ceases to exist as an

Table 3.1   Example of stakeholder impacts, leveraging, and legacy responsibilities

Stakeholder group

Examples of responsibilities

Proposed potential involvement in legacy types

Organizing Committee

Facilitator of/medium through which event impacts, leveraging, and legacies can occur

Pre and during event: all None post event (organization ceases to exist)


Host region/country visibility and image, foster trade, venue building and post-event use, event policies, promotion of certain values (e.g. language), pride, financial support for legacy-based initiatives, foster a sense of community

Political, policy, economic, social, health, infrastructure, urban, psychological, image, sport, environmental, informational, affiliative/communitas, cultural


Host region/country visibility and image, the medium through which other stakeholders transmit their messages, source of funding (e.g. broadcast rights) for certain activities

Psychological, political, image, economic, informational, cultural


Financial support for legacy-based initiatives, visibility through cross-promotion

Economic, image, informational, infrastructure, environmental, cultural

Sport organizations/federations

Sport technical knowledge, capacity building for development of sport initiatives

Sport, political, policy, infrastructure, information, image

Community (residents, tourists)

Help fund initiatives through donations of time and money, taxes, and new money entry into region

Sport, infrastructure, urban, psychological, social, affiliative/communitas, environmental, informational, economic, cultural

Community (tourism and local business bureaus and organizations, schools, facility owners, non-governmental organizations)

Foster trade, increase tourism, build relationships with potential tourists and foreign businesses, promote the host region/country, foster a sense of community, ensure continued use of facilities

Economic, image, infrastructure, urban, psychological, affiliative/communitas, informational, environmental, cultural

Community (activists)

Partner for environmental and social initiatives

Environment, social, affiliative/communitas, image, cultural

organization (usually) within a year of hosting the event (Parent 2008). Given that legacies are considered to be those outcomes which last beyond the existence of the event (Preuss 2007a), another organization would need to be responsible for taking on the management of the event’s impacts, leveraging, and legacies (see also Chapter 13 in this Handbook). The organizing committee may take on a leadership role in defining, driving, and/or coordinating potential event-based legacies during its tenure; however, post-organizing committee dissolution, another organization will have to take the lead on leveraging and legacy implementation and follow-through. Moreover, if legacies are to be planned ahead of time, it is logical to see why we are witnessing the emergence of legacy management organizations (LMOs) not only during the event planning mode but even before the bid has been won. For example, 2010 LegaciesNow, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games LMO, which has been renamed LIFT after the Games, was created during the bid phase. But who should be involved in this LMO?

Of the external stakeholders, who holds the power and responsibility (or accountability) to ensure ‘positive’ impacts? Power can be defined in multiple ways. Taking a stakeholder approach, Mitchell, Agle, and Wood (1997) followed Etzioni’s (1964) perspective of power being the ability of a stakeholder to impose their will on another stakeholder through utilitarian (use of material, financial, human, or other ‘physical’ resources), coercive (use of force, restraint, or violence) or normative (use of symbolic resources that do not fall within utilitarian or coercive categories) power sources. When analysing the set of stakeholders for two major sports events using this conceptualization of power, Parent and Deephouse (2007) found that the more types of power a stakeholder had, the more salient it was for the organizing committee. Based on Parent and Deephouse’s analysis, Table 3.2 provides an overview of the stakeholders’ power sources based on the Etzioni power definition as compared to the organizing committee’s power. We find that outside the organizing committee, the governments, media, sport organizations/federations, and community residents hold the most types of power, and only the community-activists demonstrate coercive power. Thus, we could argue that those who hold the most power should be in charge of planning and managing the impacts, leveraging, and legacy, keeping in mind the coercive force that are the activists. At first pass, the list of stakeholders seems appropriate, although one would think that the community (local businesses, tourism/business bureaus, economic development organizations, sport commissions, commerce boards, etc.) should also be included.

We can use other definitions of power to hopefully provide a more complete picture. Lukes (1974) describes power that goes beyond the ability to make a counterpart do something they would not otherwise do through utilitarian, normative, or coercive means. He calls this his first dimension of power, but argues that there are conflict-averting and latent forms of power as well that must be considered. These forms help shape discussions and decision-making, which, I argue, are intrinsic parts of planning and managing impacts and legacies; and these forms could be linked to urban regime theory. Lukes sees power as both the ability to keep a counterpart from making a decision (second dimension of power) or from forwarding a position by preventing not only a decision but also the discussion of the topic (third dimension of power); this can be accomplished through inducement, encouragement, and/or persuasion and can be demonstrated through arguments using such statements as ‘it is not how things are done’ or ‘this is how we do things here’ (Lukes 1974, Fletcher 1992). A proposed distribution of Lukes’ three dimensions of power is offered in Table 3.2.

What Table 3.2 suggests is that while all stakeholders have a form of power (Lukes’ (1974) first dimension) based on the idea that they have utilitarian, coercive, and/or normative power, fewer stakeholders demonstrate the ability to either keep counterparts from making a decision or from discussing the topic (Lukes’ second and third dimensions of power). I argue that sponsors, the media, and the community can help shape a discussion but not prevent decision making or the taking place of the discussion itself. The media, for example, act as intermediaries in the communication process (Parent and Séguin 2008). Only the governments and sport organizations can prevent decision making by virtue of their laws, policies, and rights holding (largely normative forms of power), as well as the fact that they are typically the partners forming the

Table 3.2   Proposed stakeholder power and accountability in major sport event impacts, leveraging, and legacies

Stakeholder group

Power (Etzioni)

Power (Lukes)

Overall power








# of types

Organizing committee

Event as a resource or lever

Able to force actions of other stakeholders

Temporary rights holder




Network accountability 1 ; to its key partners and event rights holders



Financial, human, and material resources

Laws and policies to follow; can be rights holders




Hierarchical and democratic accountability; to the taxpayers



Financial resources

Image production



Potentially hierarchical and democratic accountability;to themselves/their owners



Financial resources



Potentially network accountability; to their shareholders


Sport organizations/federations

Human resources

Rights holders, sport/event rules and regulations




Network accountability; to their respective members


Community (residents, tourists)


Pride, esteem, support



Potentially democratic; to themselves


Community (tourism and local business bureaus and organizations, schools, facility owners, nongovernmental organizations)

Information, human, and material resources



Potentially hierarchical and democratic accountability; to their members (organizations within the community); to the municipality (depends on reporting structure)


Community (activists)

Demonstrations, disruptions



Potentially hierarchical and democratic accountability;to themselves/their members



1  Although there are transparency and accountability problems which seem to occur with certain organizing committees such as Rio 2016 Olympic Games Organizing Committee

(Based on information from Parent and Deephouse 2007; Parent et al. 2011b)

Board of Directors of the organizing committee. I suggest that no stakeholder, however, can stop an impact or legacy discussion from occurring as there are too many stakeholders with an interest or stake in the matter.

This power analysis seems to indicate that it should be the responsibility of the governments and sport organizations to plan and manage the potential outcomes of an event. While it is logical for sport-based and perhaps even infrastructure-based outcomes, it makes less sense for other types of outcomes (e.g. social). Thus, we need to examine the issue further. Parent et al. (2011b) examined the idea of accountability of the main stakeholders for the Olympic Games. Accountability can be described as:

  • administrative or hierarchical accountability (Bovens 2007): to whom you are responsible for your actions, based on bureaucratic structures;
  • network accountability (cf. Romzek 2000): the organization’s responsibility to its voters or stakeholders, those who can affect the organization; and
  • democratic accountability (Bovens et al. 2008): the organization operates in a way that is deemed to follow democratic behaviour, based on the issue of fairness for those stakeholders who can be impacted by the organization’s actions but not necessarily be able to affect the organization’s actions in return.

What Parent et al. (2011b) found was that the governments had generally high hierarchical and democratic accountability, whereas the organizing committee and rights holding sport organizations had high network accountability. Based on to whom the stakeholders (e.g. media and sponsors) are accountable, as well as their respective roles (Table 3.1), Table 3.2 outlines proposed stakeholder accountability types. Parent et al. (2011b) found that, ultimately, the stake-holder who would have the most to lose if all went wrong for an event are the governments, and associated to them the taxpayers – just think of Montreal 1976 as evidence of this. Table 3.2 shows that accountability would be strong in the governments, the media, the community (e.g. tourism and local business bureaus and organizations, schools, facility owners, non-governmental organizations), and the community activists. This overall analysis provides us with a set of stake-holders who should be involved in planning and managing event outcomes broadly speaking (i.e. not only sport- or infrastructure-based):

  • governments;
  • sport organizations/federations;
  • media; and
  • community: sport commissions, tourism and local business bureaus and organizations, commerce boards, economic development organizations, schools, facility owners, nongovernmental organizations, and activists.

It is worth repeating that the organizing committee still has a role to play. More precisely, the types and scope of outcomes will depend on the nature of the event. Events that attract participants with more of a family feel may be smaller than the much sought after mega-events; but their smaller size makes them more manageable from a resource perspective for the host region, and therefore may provide greater chance for the event organizers (here the political half of the organizing committee and its key partners) to think about planning for and managing legacies. The World Masters Games and World Police and Fire Games are cases in point: smaller potential visibility but larger potential for manageable, sustainable legacies. The planning and hosting of smaller events are also more logistically feasible for a greater range of cities around the world. Moreover, recurring events like the Calgary Stampede or Wimbledon also provide greater opportunities for positive outcomes as the event hosting becomes routine; and again, more time can be spent on outcomes. As well, such events are found to provide better, more sustainable (intangible) impacts, like visibility and pride, for the host region as compared to one-off mega events (Ritchie and Smith 1991). However, for both smaller events and recurring events, there are fewer chances of seeing new venues or city infrastructure built for the event, a reason many communities go after larger sports events (Whitson and Macintosh 1996, Solberg and Preuss 2007).

What is important, therefore, is for the host region to pick the right event or set of events that fit with the region’s desired image (Getz 2005) and desired scope and type of outcomes. The event and organizing committee become tools, means, mechanisms, or levers that allow the host region to accrue benefits (cf. Solberg and Preuss 2007). If events are to be seen as tools, means, mechanisms, or levers, then they must be strategically managed by the region’s key stakeholders (i.e. governments, sport organizations, and community, broadly speaking) to fit with the region’s desired overall goals. To wit, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada (RMOW) created a Vision 2020 strategic document (see RMOW 2011) before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid began. They agreed to support and be involved in the bid/event in light of their strategic plan and its guiding principles (Municipal Government Representative, 13 May 2009, personal communication). Moreover, as the RMOW wants to be recognised as the world’s premier resort municipality in the world, name recognition was important; as such, the RMOW insisted that all venues on its territory were to be named starting with Whistler (e.g. ‘Whistler Creekside’ for the alpine skiing), thereby forcing stakeholders, especially the media and international stakeholders, to recognise and remember the name.

Other issues associated with research on organizing committees

In reviewing what is found thus far in the literature regarding sport event organizing committees, we can note that research on organizing committees is increasing: we know, for example, what an organizing committee is and what it does, its lifecycle, its staff and structure, and its basic stakeholder relationships. Most of this information has been garnered from major and mega multi-sport events. As there are many other types of sports events, which are arguably more prevalent and important for local communities, many issues and gaps remain.

While we have a general understanding of Olympic Games and other major multi-sport event organizing committee structures, we know less about single sport events, as well as other types of smaller events. In their risk management study of single-sport world championship events, specifically the 2006 figure skating and 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup, Leopkey and Parent (2009a, 2009b) noted that there was a national organizing committee with on-site/local organizing committees. This is a different structure than the main organizing committee found for major multi-sport events like the Olympic Games or Commonwealth Games. How is the work divided between the national and local organizing committees? What types of functions are found in each type of organizing committee? What types of issues and tensions are found between the two organizing committees? Who holds power; how is it distributed? Does decision-making get truly pushed down as the event approaches? What strategies for dealing with these issues are used? How is culture built in each organizing committee, for example: together, separately, in parallel/jointly? Are there more volunteers at all levels of the hierarchy than in major multi-sport event organizing committees? These are just some of the questions for major single-sport organizing committee settings. We can also ask these questions about smaller sports event organizing committees regarding the similarities and differences in structure, design, staffing, and operations. Essentially, it is a question of complexity: with the major/mega multi-sport events being most complex to organize, to what extent does this complexity impact the organizing committee, its structure, and its functioning? Likewise, we can ask what the impact of the recurring nature of certain sports events like Wimbledon or the Boston Marathon have on the organizing committee, its structure, and its functioning. Such events have an advantage in that they can build more enduring relationships with stakeholders and (hopefully) learn from their past mistakes in order to make the next edition of the event more effective and efficient.

These event differences draw out two additional issues: that of economic impact analyses and knowledge management and transfer processes. On the one hand, there is still much debate regarding how to best determine the economic impact of major sports events, going as far as wondering whether this can and should be determined at all (cf. Crompton 1995, Crompton and Lee 2000, Gibson et al. 2005, Késenne 2005, Lee and Taylor 2005, Preuss 2005, Wilson 2006, Lee et al. 2010, Taks et al. 2011). Different opinions can be found regarding the approach (e.g. economic impact versus cost–benefit analysis) and the type of event (e.g. major multi-sport events versus smaller multi- or single-sport events). On the other hand, certain organizing committee processes should be contextualised for whether they were examined in one-off or recurring events. The recurring nature of certain sports events allows them to learn from one year to the next, thereby creating an internal knowledge management and transfer process which is usually lacking in most major sports events (the Olympic Games being one exception, see Halbwirth and Toohey 2001, Parent et al. 2014). Thus, it is time that the sport event management literature more explicitly and to a greater extent discern the impact of the one-off versus recurring event issue, and develop knowledge regarding both of these types of events, as well as single- versus multi-sport, and major/mega versus smaller sports events.

Second, as justified as it is, the literature has, so far, tended to focus on particular approaches within organization theory/strategic management, such as stakeholder theory. Given the emphasis on the organizing committee’s resource needs, what about other types of theories such as resource-based view of the firm (Wernerfelt 1984, Barney 1991) or resource dependence theory (Pfeffer and Salancik 2003)? As well, more critical approaches to examining internal dynamics, such as critical management approaches (e.g. Alvesson and Deetz 2000), could provide additional insights into the inner workings of organizing committees, beyond those provided by urban regime theory, which provides a more external analysis of the organizing committee versus its key partners.

Finally, it would be worth drawing on a broader range of literatures, beyond management, sport (event) management, tourism/festival management, and political/urban studies, to also consider, for example, media, geography/environmental economics and planning, and project/temporary organization literatures, as organizing committees touch on all of these aspects. The complex nature of sports events and their organizing committees require the assistance of multiple theoretical perspectives to grasp its nature and functioning.

Summary and future directions

I began by defining what an organizing committee is: a non-profit (or sometimes public) organization whose nature includes being a sport organization, business, project, cause, lead organization, NAO, strategic alliance, and political entity. Ultimately, however, it is an outsourcing organization. As such, the organizing committee goes through three modes – planning, implementation, and wrap-up during its lifecycle and deals with many different issues (e.g. planning/organizing, sport/field-of-play, HRM, financial, media/visibility). I provided descriptions of the organizing committee’s structure (e.g. headquarter-centred versus venue-centred) and types of staff (e.g. paid staff, volunteers, Games gypsies) before describing the various stakeholders involved. I went on to discuss the organizing committee’s role in regards to legacy, leveraging, and sustainability, as well as suggest issues and gaps in the literature associated with organizing committees. Based on these gaps, a number of future research questions can be determined, such as:

  • Elucidating one-off versus recurring, event-based (e.g. Olympic Games, as is most of the literature) versus participation-based (e.g. Masters’ events) event organizing committee similarities and differences regarding structure, functions and processes (e.g. knowledge management and transfer).
  • Examining in greater depth HRM regarding Games gypsies, workforce work conditions, and post-event prospects.
  • Determining the impact of different types of cultures (national, organizational, functional, event, sport) on organizing committee managers.
  • Better understanding the roles of each stakeholder group regarding the potential event impacts, leveraging and legacies through, for example, case studies or broad (or even worldwide) surveys.
  • Examining the organizing committee–LMO–host region stakeholders’ triumvirate relationship and its management (i.e. the network of relationships). This can include further investigation regarding linking the NAO (from network theory) with urban studies research, as well as LMO governance best practices. The analysis could be broadened to include democratic governance principles (performance, accountability, participation, and transparency). In addition, are there limits to organizing committee, LMO, and/or stake-holder decision-making because of the tight timelines? Finally, there is a need to examine this triumvirate relationship longitudinally from before the bid of an event to some years past the hosting of an event.

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