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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 8: Contrasting the socio-political contexts



At this stage, the research does not consider all of the substantial factors behind the media discourse (for example, commercial and entertainment purposes). The relevant socio-political contexts of the Torch Relay are explored here.

We suggest that when the Torch Relay became the target of the critics of China’s human rights and Tibet policies, the British media ignored China’s Olympic history and its ambition, its culture and ideology and based their reporting on their own liberal ideology and their interpretation of Olympism. As a nation with a deep-rooted ideology of ‘harmony,’ China’s response to this criticism was shock and hurt and to some extent incredulity. For China, the Beijing Olympics represented a tremendous opportunity to communicate ‘harmoniously’ with the world. On the other hand, the Chinese media dealt clumsily with the negativity and liberalism of the Western media. They seemed unaware that this Western liberal spin is not reserved for China but is a customary part of Western media coverage of the Games. Furthermore, early British influence on the modern Olympic Games increased the inclination of the BBC and The Guardian to interpret Olympism from their own perspectives. The strong response of China’s young generation (including overseas Chinese) to the negativity led to the Chinese gaining an image of ‘dangerous nationalism,’ causing China to be increasingly misunderstood by the rest of the world.1

Studying the socio-political context of the 2008 Olympic Games, as a number of non-sport events were interwoven...

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