A neglected legacy: Examining the challenges and potential for sport tourism development in post-Olympic Athens
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Purpose: Although research on the impacts of the Olympic Games on Athens addressed the impact of the Games on economy, generic tourism, and urban restructuring, there has not been given to date attention on the prospects for sport tourism development in Athens as a result of hosting the Olympics, especially if it is considered that the construction of Olympic facilities was legitimized by the government's intention to use them for sport. To address this omission, the purpose of this study is to draw attention to examining the challenges and potential of post-Olympic Athens to exploit its Olympic legacy for the development of sport tourism. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative approach was employed by conducting nine semi-structured interviews with Athens' tourism/administrative officials and analyzing them in line with pertinent literature. Findings: Results show that the city's tourism officials respond with ad-hoc policies in their effort to capitalize on Athens' Olympic legacy. Consequently, Athens' potential is constrained by the absence of a comprehensive tourism policy aimed at enriching and diversifying the city's post-Olympic tourism product. In this context, the study shows that there is limited awareness by the city's tourism administration for sport tourism development and for establishing appropriate coordination mechanisms, which could foster mutually beneficial links between sport and tourism stakeholders. This leaves unexploited the potential for utilizing effectively Athens' Olympic facilities and destination capitals in developing a competitive sport tourism product mix. Research limitations/implications: A limitation of the study is that it examines Athens' sport tourism prospects through the lens of tourism policy. Future studies are needed to examine also sport policy. On a broader level, it is suggested that future research should extend the focus on the study of post-event leverage to find the best means for fostering post-Games Olympic tourism from a sustainability perspective. Practical implications: To redress post-Olympic Athens' inertia and associated structural problems that affect its tourism policy, the study presents a framework for the strategic planning and sustainable development of sport tourism in Athens. Originality/value: The study by examining Athens' neglected legacy for sport tourism, attempts to synthesize a common ground for sport and tourism development in Olympic cities. This inquiry suggests the need for a broader planning and leveraging framework to extend the study of Olympic tourism in the post-Games period as it relates to the use of Olympic legacy and post-Olympic assets, which can, in turn, reveal the conditions for synergistic development of sport and tourism. Also, such an examination may shed light on what and how can be corrected in order to mitigate the sources and consequences of problems, while providing lessons for future Olympic cities. Finally, by focusing on sport tourism as it is induced by the Olympics knowledge can be advanced on how to effectively leverage the Olympic legacy and develop sustainable post-Olympic tourism products.