The media and the Olympics
Newspapers, broadcasting and – increasingly - new communication technologies like the Internet have had significant roles to play in the development, and the success - both culturally and financially - of the Olympic Games. As with all globally consumed events, the media holds enormous power, and this inevitably poses problems for host governments and the IOC.
Research in this area focuses on three distinct areas:
- Looking at content (for example of a broadcast or a newspaper report)
- process (the methods used to produce or transmit an Olympic event)
- audience (how, where and by whom media output is consumed).
Within these subject areas social scientists may ask specific questions, for example, the nature of bias in the coverage of an event; how media coverage shapes people's assumptions about the Olympics and about society generally and how globally consumed events affect local, national and international cultural identities. A very topical area of research centres on the 'new' media and what effects these will have on perceptions of the Games and the power of the Olympic authorities to regulate them.
The development of the relationship between the media and the Olympic Games is a fascinating one. The 'Landmarks in the history of the media and the Olympics' article (see 'Research articles', right) provides a timeline of key developments and suggests resources held in the British Library which can be used to research this subject.
Those interested in this topic might like to read a sample chapter from Professor Pirkko Markula's 2009 book entitled 'Olympic Women and the Media: International Perspectives'. The sample chapter can be accessed via the following link:
Pirkko Markula is Professor of Socio-cultural Studies of Sport and Physical Activity at the University of Alberta, Canada.