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Carrying a Torch

The Beijing Olympic Torch Relay in the British and Chinese Media


Mei Yang

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.
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Chapter 4: Media studies



As noted above, this study is based on an examination of media discourse from the China Daily, BBC News and The Guardian in order to explore the discursive construction of Olympism surrounding the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay. We will conduct a corpus-based CDA of the selected media coverage to explore certain complex ideological representations in their historical and socio-political contexts. To this end, we will consider media studies and then discuss critical approaches to media discourse analysis.

The media play an important role in interpreting society. They are ‘dominant presenters of language’ in a society at large (Bell 1991: 1), and they affect the way in which we understand ourselves and others and the way in which we lead our lives (Briggs and Cobley 2002).

Shoemaker and Reese review the two different roles of the media: its passive role, media-as-channel (1991: 29) and its active role, media-as-participants (ibid: 32). One source of the media-as-channel philosophy is journalists who point out that their role is a neutral one, to gather and transmit information. In this way, media content is assumed to provide an accurate and representative portrait of the world (ibid: 31). On the other hand, the view of the proponents of media-as-participants (ibid: 32) is that media content does not perfectly describe reality, which is necessarily manipulated when events and people are relocated into news or prime-time stories (ibid). Rhetorically, people can be portrayed with different labels (for example, a ‘freedom fighter’...

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