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Owning the Olympics

Narratives of the New China

Monroe E. Price and Daniel Dayan, Editors

Publication Year: 2008

A major contribution to the study of global events in times of global media. Owning the Olympics tests the possibilities and limits of the concept of 'media events' by analyzing the mega-event of the information age: the Beijing Olympics. . . . A good read from cover to cover. —Guobin Yang, Associate Professor, Asian/Middle Eastern Cultures & Sociology, Barnard College, Columbia University From the moment they were announced, the Beijing Games were a major media event and the focus of intense scrutiny and speculation. In contrast to earlier such events, however, the Beijing Games are also unfolding in a newly volatile global media environment that is no longer monopolized by broadcast media. The dramatic expansion of media outlets and the growth of mobile communications technology have changed the nature of media events, making it significantly more difficult to regulate them or control their meaning. This volatility is reflected in the multiple, well-publicized controversies characterizing the run-up to Beijing 2008. According to many Western commentators, the People's Republic of China seized the Olympics as an opportunity to reinvent itself as the "New China"---a global leader in economics, technology, and environmental issues, with an improving human-rights record. But China's maneuverings have also been hotly contested by diverse global voices, including prominent human-rights advocates, all seeking to displace the official story of the Games. Bringing together a distinguished group of scholars from Chinese studies, human rights, media studies, law, and other fields, Owning the Olympics reveals how multiple entities---including the Chinese Communist Party itself---seek to influence and control the narratives through which the Beijing Games will be understood. digitalculturebooks is an imprint of the University of Michigan Press and the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library dedicated to publishing innovative and accessible work exploring new media and their impact on society, culture, and scholarly communication. Visit the website at www.digitalculture.org.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: The New Media World

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pp. 1-13

It was precisely one year before the 2008 Olympic Games would begin, and a deep smog covered Beijing. The day, August 8, 2007, was filled with the symbolism of anticipation. An official ceremony, triggered by the magic moment marked on a special clock, began the grand unveiling, with 10,000 carefully selected people celebrating...

I. Defining Beijing 2008: Whose World, What Dream?

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“One World, Different Dreams”: The Contest to Define the Beijing Olympics

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pp. 17-66

The Olympics are as much about stories—many of them political—as they are about sports. The ancient Games famously included an imperative to warring city-states to cease hostilities, an affirmation of a Greek identity coextensive with civilization, and other matters beyond athletics. Political narrative also has been central to the modern...

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Olympic Values, Beijing’s Olympic Games, and the Universal Market

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pp. 67-85

Whether it is a comparative cultural, critical investigative, anthropologically rooted, or media-oriented approach to understanding the Olympic phenomenon, it is notable that the place of the sponsor in the cultural and social construction of the Games is less subject to scrutiny than are other aspects of the event, such as the media...

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On Seizing the Olympic Platform

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pp. 86-114

When Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz wrote Media Events, their masterful analysis of mass ceremonies of the twentieth century (coronations, the moon landing, the Kennedy funeral), the emphasis was on the celebratory or cohesion-building qualities of such global incidents. Now, reflecting on geopolitical changes that have intensified since...

II. Precedents and Perspectives

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The Public Diplomacy of the Modern Olympic Games and China’s Soft Power Strategy

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pp. 117-144

In 1965 a retired American diplomat turned college dean named Edmund Gullion unveiled a new piece of terminology to help his countrymen conceptualize the role of communications in foreign relations. That term was public diplomacy. He and his team fleshed out the concept in a brochure for their new Edward R. Murrow Center...

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“A Very Natural Choice”: The Construction of Beijing as an Olympic City during the Bid Period

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pp. 145-162

“Beijing has succeeded!” (Beijing chenggong le!) President Jiang Zemin’s declaration on July 13, 2001 brought the enthusiastic crowd gathered at Tiananmen Square the news they had hoped for. Millions of others heard the announcement through TV and radio broadcasts in China and abroad. This chapter examines how the Beijing Olympic...

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Dreams and Nightmares: History and U.S. Visions of the Beijing Games

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pp. 163-184

The Western discourse on the 2008 Olympics, which has periodically reached high levels of intensity ever since the news broke in 2001 that Beijing would get to host the Games, cries out for historical analysis. Or, rather, as the preceding quotes suggest, it cries out for several different kinds of analysis that relate to history. For this discourse...

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The Fragility of Asian National Identity in the Olympic Games

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pp. 185-209

Kipling’s twain between the “East” and the “West” of the nineteenth century continues to haunt our modern global imagination. Nowhere is the difference between the two made more visible than in the narratives of Asian national identity that are produced for the Olympic Games.¹ These narratives begin with the bids to host the...

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Journalism and the Beijing Olympics: Liminality with Chinese Characteristics

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pp. 210-226

On December 1, 2006, Beijing released a significant declaration concerning foreign media professionals traveling to China to report on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Ostensibly keeping promises to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it would allow journalists to report on the Games in a free media environment, Beijing...

III. Theaters of Representation

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“All Under Heaven”— Megaspace in Beijing

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pp. 229-259

Staging the 2008 Olympics is heady stuff for the modern descendants of the Middle Kingdom. Though its emperor once possessed a divine mandate to rule “All Under Heaven,” China’s international role has been far more circumscribed during the last century and a half. Now the Chinese believe their luck has changed. Playing host to the...

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From Athens to Beijing: The Closing Ceremony and Olympic Television Broadcast Narratives

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pp. 260-283

It is a characteristic of Olympics broadcasts throughout the world that national distribution systems have a major impact on how narratives are communicated and received. Much of what is written—in this book and elsewhere—deals with efforts by host cities and nations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and sponsors to manage...

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New Technologies, New Narratives

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pp. 284-306

Media events and communication technology are inexorably tied. The success of a media event relies on communication technology as a means of connecting the audience to a live event. For, as Dayan and Katz write: “the power of these events lies, first of all, in the rare realization of the full potential of electronic media...

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Embracing Wushu: Globalization and Cultural Diversification of the Olympic Movement

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pp. 307-319

When the 2008 Olympics were awarded to Beijing, there was some hope that a trend toward homogenization, in terms of Western sport culture, would be altered. Because the sports events are the central aesthetic of the Games, what sports are included, how they are presented, and how they are honored sends a powerful message to the...

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“We Are the Media”: Nonaccredited Media and Citizen Journalists at the Olympic Games

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pp. 320-345

Narratives about the Olympics arise largely from the stories ‹led by the mass of journalists—press and broadcasters—who attend the Games and spew forth accounts of what occurs on and off the competition ground. Who those journalists are, what they do, how they are channeled through the Olympics world—each has implications...

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Definition, Equivocation, Accumulation, and Anticipation: American Media’s Ideological Reading of China’s Olympic Games

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pp. 346-371

To construct and display itself to its own members and to an external audience, a culture or nation employs many types of texts—legible events or objects—including museums, historic homes and districts, rituals and ceremonies, architecture, shrines, sports events, and artistic performances. Such texts are purposefully used as symbolic...

IV. Conclusion

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Toward the Future: The New Olympic Internationalism

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pp. 375-390

The Beijing Olympics represents a turning point for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Beijing 2008 embodies traditional aspects of the Olympic Movement, but it also can be seen as ushering in a new internationalist role for the IOC, as an organization responding to the demands of twenty-first century globalization. In this nascent...

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Beyond Media Events: Disenchantment, Derailment, Disruption

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pp. 391-401

The Olympics exemplify a class of occurrences that are not only preplanned and heralded long in advance, but also inscribed on calendars. The issue is not whether or not they will take place. We know they will. And since the “what” of the event is already known, the “how” becomes the important issue. Given the predictable nature...

Author Biographies

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pp. 403-409


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pp. 411-416

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024506
E-ISBN-10: 0472024507
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050321
Print-ISBN-10: 047205032X

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 4 tables
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: The New Media World