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Urban design and physical activity in Japan: A role for sports event hosting?

Preparations for hosting a sports mega event include major upgrades to sports facilities and urban infrastructure. These changes have the potential to increase utility and amenity of urban spaces for community physical activity. My latest research examines the leisure time physical activity potential in the vicinity of three large and multi-use venues that will play a major role in the forthcoming Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Despite all of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and the postponement of the event, urban infrastructure developments are one constant that will continue have long-term legacy impacts for the city in the years and decades to come (irrespective of the effects of the global pandemic on the hosting period for the Olympic and Paralympic Games).

Title: Constructing legacy: walking audits of the leisure time physical activity potential of Tokyo Olympic venues and their urban milieu

Abstract: Hosting the Olympic Games provides opportunities for municipalities to re-imagine urban spaces to promote active leisure. Our research systematically assessed the pre-Olympic conditions for leisure time physical activity (LTPA) in the vicinity of multi-use venues for the Tokyo Games. Researchers conducted walking audits in the surrounds of three venues within two years of the opening ceremony, including the Olympic Stadium, Athlete Village and Musashino Sports Plaza. Audits employed the validated Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument, photographic protocols and GPS mapping. Audit scores for urban features, amenities and incivilities were averaged across researchers, and summative scores provided. Photographs and field notes augmented the evaluation. Six environmental challenges for LTPA legacies were identified, including limited resource accessibility, lack of amenities, health nuisance, vegetation overgrowth, heat effects and disaster risk. These findings indicate that there are important ecological considerations that should be addressed to leverage Olympic hosting in support of LTPA objectives.

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