The lived experience of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers: a serious leisure perspective

Wilks, Linda (2016). The lived experience of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers: a serious leisure perspective. Leisure Studies, 35(5) pp. 652–667.



Along with other sporting mega-events, the Olympic Games, in all its versions, makes extensive use of volunteers. The 70,000 London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers, for example, played a vital role in the delivery of the event. Stebbins’ theoretical perspective of serious leisure includes consideration of volunteering and there are calls for its further empirical evaluation. This study, therefore, uses a qualitative study of the lived experience of London 2012 volunteers to test the relevance of the serious leisure framework to Olympic volunteering. The data are drawn from the reflective diaries of 20 participants who volunteered in a variety of roles during London 2012. It is concluded that all of the qualities of serious leisure are identifiable to various extents within the experiences of the London 2012 volunteers. This finding will help Olympic and other sporting mega-event managers to understand and improve the experiences of their volunteers. Recommendations are also made, in the light of the findings, for the further refinement of the serious leisure perspective. Particular attention is paid to highlighting how the findings might contribute to recent debates around whether sporting mega-event volunteering is best explained by the serious leisure quality of career volunteering, or by the serious leisure associated concept of project-based leisure, or alternatively by the competing term of episodic volunteering.

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