London 2012 Olympic Torch

Olympic Media Narratives

Towards London 2012: Non-accredited Media, Cultural Discourses, and Olympic Host City Identity (January 2006- Jan 2008).

Co-investigator (with Dr Andy Miah). Research funded by the British Academy.
This project develops British Academy funded research awarded to Drs Garcia and Miah in 2004 to study the role of the non-accredited media centre (NAMC) at the Athens Olympic Games.

Our proposal builds on previous findings, continuing the longitudinal approach reflected in our original title: ‘From Athens 2004 to London 2012’. The foundation for this project emerged from research at the Sydney 2000 and Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Games. Athens 2004 represented the first formal data collection period, which we have developed up to 2012.

In previous work we have noted that the NAMC is a recent phenomenon which holds an ambiguous position within the Games’ media structures: it can play host to globally relevant meetings but tends to attract limited coverage. However, it is in the interest of future host cities to strengthen the position of the NAMC, because of its local cultural and political role.

Our findings in Athens show that this can take the following forms:

– Socio-economic: the NAMC provides a platform to communicate the Games’ wider (non-sporting) context, from its effect on local neighbourhoods (ie. transport matters, job creation etc) to its wider impact on international relations (diplomatic affairs, the practical management of Olympic ideals such as peace and understanding). These debates tend to become central tenets of Olympic legacy, which come to represent how the Games is remembered.

– Cultural: the NAMC functions as a hospitality and promotional venue for local government agencies and cultural groups, thus ‘representing’ the culture of the city/region through what is displayed within the media centre itself.

– Political: the NAMC offers a space for debating matters that might be considered problematic from the perspective of the International Olympic Committee. Specifically, it functions as a space for addressing sensitive local and international political issues, which are purposefully prohibited at official Olympic venues.

These social, economic, cultural and political functions do not tend to take place elsewhere at the Olympic Games, as the official venues are required to focus on the sports events. For London and future Olympic hosts, this means that securing sustainable legacies would benefit from the effective management of the NAMC as a provider of more inclusive and broader cultural meanings. This has become critical in the current climate of distrust towards major events either for their potential economic pitfalls or indeed the threat of international terrorism.

During the second phase of this project we have explored the experiences in Turin and Beijing, which have been important to inform London’s approach in 2012. We believe that a model for the NAMC is emerging and our work  follows its development to understand whether knowledge is transferred from one Games to another, or whether it remains a culturally specific endeavour.

Additional information and links:

  • Culture @ the Olympics | 2006 edition
  • Book chapter | Miah, A. & Garcia, B. (2008) ‘We Are The Media. Non-Accredited Media & Citizen Journalists at the Olympic Games’ in Price, M. & Dayan, D (Eds). Owning the Olympics. Narratives of the New China. University of Michigan Press (pp. 320-345)
  • British Academy Review | The Olympic Games: Imagining a New Media Legacy, by Professor Andy Miah and Dr Beatriz Garcia