Authors: Nigel Jamieson
Abstract: Sport and tourism can play a major role in the bringing together of communities. The social cohesion that emanates from this interaction can make an important contribution to life in general, but rural life in particular in South Australia. Some towns have been struggling in recent times with high out-migration, bad seasons, loss of services and general low morale. A sport tourism event could well be seen as a fillip for the community and this study looks at seven towns and the role a particular sport tourism event, the Tour Down Under (TDU), plays in building the social capital of the community involved.
Many studies concentrate on the economic impact of sport tourism events but fail to contemplate the social impacts which can be just as important and meaningful for those involved. The economic rationalists of the world want to dissect, measure, plot, and statisticalise the figures from countless economic studies. But what really happens to the people who are actually running the events, staffing the information booths, intersections and generally freely giving their time and effort for the successful conduct of these events?
After closer, more in-depth investigation if can be demonstrated that sport tourism events play an important role in creating ‘social capital’ and helping communities develop trust, openness and respect for different individuals and groups. These events may not be the panacea of all ills but they can possibly go a long way to alleviating some of the rural malaise and feelings of isolation they are feeling at this present time. However an important caveat is that the organisers must engage with the local community in order to maximise the benefits to all concerned.