Sheffield received an economic boost of over £3million during August last year due to Special Olympics GB’s National Games taking place in the city

28th February 2018

An independent report and research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University shows that Sheffield received an economic boost of over £3million during August last year due to Special Olympics GB’s National Games taking place in the city.



Richard Coleman, Principal Researcher of the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University said: ”An economic impact on Sheffield of £3.28m vindicates the decision to bring the Special Olympics GB National Games back to the city and is testament to the desire, time and resources committed by national and local agencies in delivering a wonderful sporting spectacle and celebration of the human spirit.”

At Special Olympics GB we greatly value this report and the key findings that Special Olympics GB and our 2,600 athletes with learning disabilities competing at our National Games provided an additional stimulus to the city of Sheffield in excess of £3 million.

This is great news for potential future hosting towns and cities of our Special Olympics GB National Games held every four years and other significant events.

Not only can Special Olympics GB and our athletes provide events which are packed with the very best of human achievement and endeavour but they also give regions around the country a huge boost of energy, pride, inclusion and finance.

The Special Olympics GB National Games kicked-off with a spectacular Opening Ceremony at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium on Tuesday 8th August 2017 complemented by four days of thrilling and uplifting sporting action.

The Special Olympics GB National Games – which are held every four years – was the biggest disability multi-sports event in the country in 2017, with 2,600 athletes with learning disabilities from across England, Scotland and Wales taking part in 20 different sports across a dozen South Yorkshire venues.

This year, Special Olympics celebrates its 40th anniversary in Great Britain - founded in 1978. Special Olympics GB is a charity and the largest provider of a year-round sport in Great Britain supporting over 10,000 people with intellectual (learning) disabilities. Across, England, Scotland and Wales, approximately 27,000 regular sports coaching sessions of at least one hour are delivered locally each year by 150 accredited programmes across 28 different sports.


This report presents an estimate of the economic impact on Sheffield of the Special Olympics GB National Games held in the city in August 2017. The results are based on a programme of primary research at the various event venues across Sheffield and analysis of event documentation conducted by Sheffield Hallam University's Sport Industry Research Centre.


The fieldwork yielded responses from 1,318 spectators at Sheffield venues. In addition, responses from event attendees across other groups numbered 294. These data coupled with documentation and event records provided by Special Olympics GB were used to derive the spending patterns of those attending and the aggregate additional expenditure in the city directly attributable to the Games. 

Direct Economic Impact

The direct economic impact of the Games was measured in terms of the amount of new money that flows into the Sheffield economy that is attributable to the event. It explicitly excludes monies that originate from Sheffield residents and businesses. The direct economic impact on Sheffield was estimated at £3.28m (as shown below).

More than 7,500 (of the estimated 9,200 different) spectators were visiting from outside the city and accounted for half of the impact (£1.65m). Visiting athletes, coaches and other attendee groups collectively generated a further £1.31m (40%), and net organisational expenditure in Sheffield contributed the remaining £0.31m (10%). The Games generated c. 35,000 commercial bed-nights in Sheffield.

Accommodation (£1.67m) and food & beverage (£0.70m) were responsible for the majority of visitor spending in the city; whilst shopping accounted for a further £0.29m of the impact on Sheffield. 

To put the direct impact of the Games in context, the additional expenditure is comparable with other major sports events held in the city and in far less duration.

Spectator perceptions

Games' aspects

• The Opening Ceremony was an enjoyable experience for the vast majority of spectators.
• Volunteers were well thought of by spectators and perceived to be helpful, welcoming and available as needed.
• Games transport was easy to use.
• Registration for the Games was easy and the athletes' village was well received.

Spectator experiences

Almost three-quarters of spectators surveyed at the Games reported that they were now more likely to attend other Special Olympics events in England. Spectators would also recommend their spectator experiences to family/friends.
Community development

Among the local spectators who were interviewed, each felt a sense of pride that Sheffield was hosting the Games. The majority felt that the Games made a positive difference to how they feel about living in the city and that the Games had brought the local community together.


The majority of spectators who resided outside Sheffield felt that their visit to the Games had enhanced their image of the city, whilst they were more likely to recommend Sheffield as a place to visit.


The scale of the estimated economic impact, the pride expressed by local spectators and the positive perceptions about the event cited by those attending, augurs well for the future of the Special Olympics GB National Games. Apart from being good news for Special Olympics, the evidence presented herein will also be of interest to Sheffield City Council which is well aware of the potential benefits of major events in terms of what they can do for the city. Indeed, this report which utilised a tried and tested methodology may perhaps be viewed as an advocacy document (for potential hosts) in both economic and public perception terms for an event that is also a wonderful celebration of the human spirit.

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