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Major elite sporting events such as the Olympic Games can trigger a wave of enthusiasm and ‘feel good’ factor amongst the general population. For this reason, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), in collaboration with Sport Vlaanderen, examined in a comprehensive population survey how proud and happy such events makes the Flemish people feel.

“The results show that Flemish people are overwhelmingly positive in their response on the impact that top sport has on ‘happiness and passion’ in our country. Top-level sport provides a sense of collective success,” said VUB professor Veerle De Bosscher, who led the study.

The research forms part of a larger study. Between January 2020 and March 2022, brief and targeted random surveys were carried out among one thousand Flemings each month. There are also five major sampling moments: in February 2020, February 2021, July 2021, September 2021 and February 2022. These surveys are always representative in terms of place of residence, gender, age, employment status, level of education, migrant background and people with disabilities.

Feelings of happiness

The research further shows that the Flemish people who are passively engaged with sports once a week or more (e.g. follow sports on TV, radio, or through other media sources) or the Flemish people who frequently participate in sports themselves (once a week or more) are significantly more likely to indicate that they are happy with the performances of Olympic athletes.

For example, 7 in 10 Flemish people state that they become happy when top athletes perform well and a further 7 in 10 Flemish people feel proud when Olympic Athletes perform well. ” The Flemish people appear to be more proud of top sports achievements than, for example, achievements in education (18 percent), art and literature (13 percent) or economics (5 percent). Achievements in healthcare (47 percent), social security (42 percent) and science and technology (25 percent) make the Flemish more proud, but in view of the current pandemic, that result is not entirely unexpected,” concludes Veerle De Bosscher.

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