BACKGROUND: The public health impact of mass gatherings should not be underestimated, requiring careful planning. This evaluation identified the successes and failures of a programme targeted to mitigate against potential increases in sexual ill health during the London 2012 Olympics.
METHODS: Programme planning was evaluated using documentary analysis. Stakeholders' experiences were explored using an online survey. Finally, selected stakeholders were interviewed in depth.
RESULTS: Over 100 documents were analysed, 36 survey responses received and 12 interviews conducted. Most respondents felt aims were appropriate, potentially overambitious. 'Business as usual', with no disruption or increased demand, was reported in sexual health services. Some interviewees felt evidence for increased demand was limited, although contingency planning was needed. Signposting service users and providing 'residual risk responses' appeared successful. Planned service transformation was not fully achieved and perhaps inappropriate, although new service collaborations emerged. Over 2000 individuals participated; wider public engagement was seen as inappropriate. A 'Sex Factor 2012' competition was particularly successful. Legacy opportunities included planning work, groundwork for transformation, relationship building and continuing the resilience changes.
CONCLUSIONS: The Games allowed sexual health services to explore new ways of working, engage with stakeholders and develop new relationships, although in reality demand for services did not increase.