‘Narratives of Empire’: An investigation into the English national press coverage of the 2012 London Olympic Ceremonies, University of East London

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Olympic Legacies: International Conference- Impacts of Mega-Events on Cities

4th-6th September 2013, University of East London


One important aspect of the hosting of sporting mega-events is the media’s coverage of the host city and nation.  Here, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies provide a principal opportunity to critically consider how the media construct, frame and represent the host city/nation.  With this in mind, this presentation examines the English national press coverage[1] of the 2012 London Olympic Ceremonies in order to elucidate upon contemporary mediated constructions of ‘Britain’ and British identity.

Specifically, attention was given to exploring how the post-imperial decline of Britain has influenced and shaped the media’s framing of Britain.  Accordingly, underlying this aim two interrelated questions were considered.  Firstly, how had a history of British imperialism shaped perceptions of British identity in the English press’ coverage, and secondly, what did this reveal in regards to contemporary potrayals of Britain?

Consequently, from this sample of the data four interrelated themes were obtained: ‘Imperial nostalgia’, ‘Imperial decline’, ‘Reinvented Britain’ and ‘‘Great’ Britain’.  Indeed, these themes reveal that ‘narratives of empire’, both positive and negative, remained prominent within the English press’ construction of Britain during the ceremonies.  In fact, despite the de-colonization of Britain’s African colonies, the handing over of Hong Kong and the move towards devolution within the U.K., the press’ portrayal of ‘Britain’ drew upon both national and imperial (re)constructions.  To this extent, the British Empire continued to play a key part in the English press’ framing of Britain 2012.

[1] This will include both broadsheet and tabloid newspapers.


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