Carrying a Torch

The Beijing Olympic Torch Relay in the British and Chinese Media

by Mei Yang (Author)
©2014 Monographs XVIII, 262 Pages


The Olympic torch relay held before the 2008 Games was the moment when East met West on the media stage. This book analyses the torch relay and its representation, offering a discursive construction of Olympic ideology by and through the media in both East and West. The author argues that the discourse used by the media in different social contexts reflected the diversity of ideologies and cultural values with which the Olympic flame was imbued.
A corpus-based Discourse-Historical Approach in Critical Discourse Analysis (DHA-CDA) is applied to media discourse in the United Kingdom and in China to examine the complexity, contradiction and conflicts in linguistic interpretations of Olympic ideology. Corpora drawn from the China Daily, BBC News and The Guardian are described, interpreted in their linguistic contexts, and then explained in terms of the broader historical and socio-political contexts surrounding the dynamic life of the Olympic torch relay. This unique study sheds light on the significance of the Olympic Games for East-West media discourse and analysis.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of abbreviations
  • Chapter 1: Olympism in media discourse
  • Chapter 2: Olympic Torch Relay and China and Britain in modern Olympic history
  • Chapter 3: Olympism, liberalism and harmony
  • Chapter 4: Media studies
  • Chapter 5: Corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Chapter 6: Frequency and Concordance Analysis
  • Chapter 7: Diachronic study
  • Chapter 8: Contrasting the socio-political contexts
  • Chapter 9: Conclusion
  • Appendix: Concordance analysis of media, Olympic, journey, flame, human, torch, torchbearer, Athens, Beijing and London
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index


Figure 1  Ideological influences on media content in the hierarchical model

Figure 2  Concentric Circle Model

Figure 3  Concordance lines for people and ordinary in BBC/GC-B

Figure 4  Concordance lines for people and world in BBC/GC-B

Figure 5  Concordance lines for people and ordinary in CDC-B

Figure 6  Concordance lines for Sydney in CDC-A

Figure 7  Concordance lines for people in BBC/GC-A ← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →


Table 1  The list of venues for the summer Olympic Games

Table 2  Baker’s nine stage corpus-assisted CDA

Table 3  Corpus Resources used in this study

Table 4  The top fifty most frequent lexical items in CDC-B and BBC/GC-B

Table 5  The top fifty most frequent lexical items in CDC-B and BBC/GC-B (with the high-frequency, topic-related terms filtered out)

Table 6  Collocates of great in CDC-B

Table 7  Clusters of great in CDC-B

Table 8  The top thirty lexical items in the four time periods of CDC-B and BBC/GC-B (with the high-frequency, topic-related terms filtered out)

Table 9  The top fifty most frequent lexical items in CDC-A and CDC-B

Table 10  The top fifty most frequent lexical items in CDC-A and CDC-B (with the high-frequency, topic-related terms filtered out)

Table 11  The top fifty most frequent lexical items in BBC/GC-A and BBC/GC-B

Table 12  The top fifty most frequent lexical items in BBC/GC-A and BBC/GC-B (with the high-frequency, topic-related terms filtered out) ← xiii | xiv →

← xiv | xv →


I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Barbara Fennell, my teacher, mentor and friend. Her positive influence, patience, astuteness, faith and encouragement will accompany me throughout my career, as I remember her invaluable assistance in the past several years. Her rigorous criticism has been very beneficial to me.

I thank Dr Lukas Pokorny for his invaluable comments and great help on this book. Dr Pokorny’s profound knowledge widened my horizons – his influence is precious and irreplaceable. I owe a great debt to his intellectual generosity.

I owe much gratitude to Dr Mark Garner’s valuable comments and suggestions throughout this study. His immense work helping me to turn my PhD dissertation into a book has made the hard work a great pleasure.

I sincerely thank Professor Ian P. Henry, Professor Ruth Wodak, Professor Theo van Leeuwen and Dr Cao Qing for their invaluable suggestions on the core concepts of this book.

I owe particular thanks to Mr Edwin Campbell and Mrs Margaret Campbell, who supported me without reservation. My gratitude and fondness go to Alan, Lynne and Catriona Johnson. They are my family in Aberdeen.

My special thanks go to Professor Ju Zhan and my current institution, Jilin University, without whose support this work could not have been done. I am also grateful for discussions with Professor Yunhua Xiang and Professor Yufang Qian and for their comments on this research.

My entire family’s endless love is a mainstay of my life. They have given me continued understanding and support as they always do. My debt to my husband – Liang – exceeds words. Last but not least, I do hope my dearest loving daughter, Elaine, can be proud of me when she reads this book; if so, all my efforts will be truly rewarded. ← xv | xvi →

← xvi | xvii →


Olympism in media discourse

The stance of this study

This book attempts to explore the discursive1 construction of Olympic ideology in the 2008 Torch Relay news coverage by the British and the Chinese media. It applies a corpus-based Discourse-Historical Approach in Critical Discourse Analysis (DHA-CDA) to analyse how and why the complexity, contradiction and conflicts in linguistic interpretations of Olympism are demonstrated by the media discourse between East and West.

CDA is an approach to the analysis of discourse which views language as a social practice and is interested in the ways that ideologies and power relations are expressed through language. Describing discourse as social practice implies a dialectical relationship between a particular discursive event and the situation(s), institution(s) and social structure(s) that frame it: the discursive event is shaped by them, but it also shapes them. That is, discourse is socially constitutive as well as socially conditioned – it constitutes situations, objects of knowledge, and the social identities of, and relationships between, people and groups of people. It is constitutive both in the sense that it helps to sustain and reproduce the social status quo and in the sense that it contributes to transforming it (Fairclough and Wodak 1997: 258). Unlike many other forms of linguistic analysis, CDA is not only concerned with words on a page but also involves examining social context (Baker and Ellece 2010: 26). Various approaches to CDA have been ← 1 | 2 → proposed and all tend towards combining text analysis with consideration of the wider social context (ibid).

Studies in CDA are multifarious, derived from quite different theoretical backgrounds, and oriented towards different data and methodologies (Wodak and Meyer 2009: 5). They have been developed over the years by scholars from different backgrounds. All CDA approaches have their own theoretical position combined with specific methods (see Wodak & Meyer 2001; Wodak and Meyer 2009 for details). In contrast to ‘total and closed’ theories, CDA has never had an image of being closed (Wodak and Meyer 2009: 5). As a methodological and theoretical approach, CDA is intentionally flexible enough for researchers to adapt it to their special research needs.

Every theoretical approach in CDA is inherently interdisciplinary because it aims at investigating complex social phenomena and this aim cannot be achieved by linguistic study alone. This study applies the integrationist model of the interdisciplinarity of CDA (see van Leeuwen 2005: 3–18 for detail). The integrationist model focuses on problems rather than on methods. Here it is recognized that no single discipline can satisfactorily address any given problem on its own. This study applies linguistic study integrated with the studies of ideology, media, history and politics.


XVIII, 262
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
ideology diversity contradiction
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. XVIII 262 pp., 28 ill., 42 tables

Biographical notes

Mei Yang (Author)

Mei Yang received her PhD from the University of Aberdeen. She is a lecturer at the School of Foreign Language Education, Jilin University and an external researcher at the Centre for Olympic Studies and Research, Loughborough University.


Title: Carrying a Torch