Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Legacy; Mega-Sports Events; Twitter; Leisure-Time Physical Activity; Communication

Major Advisor

Claudia Carello

Associate Advisor

James Dixon

Associate Advisor

Steven Harrison

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Routine engagement in Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA) is associated with long-term health, lower mortality, and higher quality of life. Inspiring participation in LTPA is one desired benefit of public investment in mega-events such as the Olympic Games. Whether such inspiration materializes—and, if so, for how long—was examined in three studies that investigated a perception-action process at the level of the interaction between real and virtual environments. The influence of the real environment of the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 was assessed via the virtual environment instantiated in the Twitter social network. Emerging dynamic communication about LTPA in three epochs (before, during, and after the mega-event’s occurrence) was assessed against pre-existing average weekly Twitter patterns not limited by topic. Study 1 compared Brazilian cities at different functional distances from the Games: the primary host, a football-only host, and a non-host. Study 2 examined the relevance of being close to or far from the host city’s time zone, both for cities that had or had not previously hosted the Games. Study 3 targeted previous host cities (where English was the native language) over the last 60 years to examine persistence of engagement with the Games. Twitter activity comprised more than 1 million LTPA-focused posts collected during a span of 183 days from residents of 10 cities. Descriptive and inferential statistics were supplemented by Detrended Fluctuation Analysis, Fast Fourier Transform, Wavelet and Cross-wavelet Coherence Analysis, and Growth Curve Modeling. All analyses showed an influence of the Games on LTPA Twitter activity in the targeted cities with the strongest effects being apparent in the cities of the host country and without systematic evidence that time zone or hosting history mattered. Average LTPA weekly patterns of behavior differed in each epoch relative to the Games, with none of the epochs strongly resembling the global patterns typical of activity not limited by topic. There was little evidence of what might be considered a legacy, whether in pre- and post-Games differences, recency of hosting, or even having hosted at all. Given evidence that tweets reflect actual behavior, the Olympic Games seem to provide the occasion that attunes the Twitter-user to the environmental affordances that encourage LTPA, but this effect does not seem to last long.