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Jamieson, NI 2012, 'When the spin stops…it’s more than a bike race : an exploratory study of the role of a sport tourism event, the Tour Down Under, in building social capital in rural South Australia', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright NI Jamieson 2012


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 it 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.

Seven rural towns in South Australia, the scene of recent involvement with the Tour Down Under cycling race, were chosen for the research. A leading figure involved in the event, the so called bellwether, from each town was interviewed to gauge if the event helped improve community pride, developed networks, helped reciprocity and generally raised the morale of the community. Then utilizing the snow-ball sampling procedure 2-3 groups from each of the seven towns were “nominated” representing over 60 respondents to in-depth largely unstructured interviews to see what their reaction was to the same sorts of measures.

What was found was this event, the TDU, contributed to the building of bonding social capital in the communities investigated but had a negligible effect on the bridging social capital. There was certainly a propensity to view the TDU in a favourable light but much more could be done to fully engage the community and act as a strong catalyst to develop social capital in a more holistic and sustainable manner. Much more needs to be done in this area to accurately measure social capital and the role that sport tourism events could contribute more to the community strength and social cohesion.