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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 9: Conclusion



The data analysis demonstrates that the China Daily interpreted Olympism as representing peace, unity and friendship; harmony was central to both the 2004 and the 2008 reporting. The Chinese were honoured and proud to host the Olympic Games. In this context people were emphasized because the Games represented the whole nation and the use of this word originated from the status of ‘people’ in the Confucian view of harmony: ‘the people are of supreme importance (minben)’ (Mengzi 7 B: 14, cf. Yao 2000: 186). In the Torch Relay rituals, the Olympic flame was an enduring symbol representing Olympism and it provided a link between the various countries through which the relay passed. Therefore, any disruption and politicization of the journey of harmony, was, for the China Daily, a distortion and impoverishment of Olympism.

BBC News and The Guardian interpreted Olympism in the 2004 Torch Relay similarly, as a welcoming sports phenomenon endowed with positive spirit. However, in the 2008 Torch Relay, they adopted a quite different perspective, surrounding it with political themes and mainly focusing on human rights issues and the Tibet problem. In this way the freedom and independence of the British media came to the fore and the Torch Relay was interpreted as a medium for promoting human rights. The British approach was one of, liberalism, based on the independence of the media, the freedom to protest and the definition of human rights in liberal tradition. This was in clear opposition...

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