How business legacy influences organising body legitimacy in the delivery of mega events: The drift to myth at Rio 2016

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The extent to which mega events, such as the Olympics and World Expos, catalyse meaningful legacies is a contentious issue. However, the organisers of such events go to great lengths to develop business legacy plans in order to gain legitimacy with their wider stakeholders. This process constitutes a critical cornerstone for the overall success of the event, but business legacy plans tend to fade away after the delivery phase. Drawing upon the legitimacy literature, our study investigates this gap between planning and long-term delivery through a case study of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Interviews with forty-three directors of Rio 2016 were conducted between February-April 2016, in addition to the collection of field notes and secondary data. We find that Rio 2016 applied a decoupling strategy before and during the event to gain short-term legitimacy via legacy planning. However, a legitimacy drift was identified, whereby legacy delivery was side-lined and positive outcomes were minimal. We argue that the drive for legitimacy tends to be short-lived, and as legitimacy drifts, legacy becomes mythical. This has important implications for literature on legitimacy and legacy, organising bodies and for all businesses involved in event management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Research
Early online date2 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Business Research. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Business Research, 129, (2021) DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2021.02.038

© 2021, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


This research is funded by the European Union Framework 7 Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme Programme.


  • legitimacy
  • legacy
  • legacy drift
  • mega events
  • Olympic Games
  • Rio 2016
  • corporate governance
  • international business
  • Mega events
  • International business
  • Corporate governance
  • Legacy drift
  • Legitimacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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