International Journal of Sport Communication, 2011, 4, 26-49
© 2011 Human Kinetics, Inc.
The authors are with the School of Kinesiology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada.
One World, One Dream: A Qualitative
Comparison of the Newspaper Coverage
of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic
Ik Young Chang, Jane Crossman, Jane Taylor,
and Diane Walker
Lakehead University, Canada
This study compared and explored the textual coverage of the 2008 Beijing
Olympic Games (OG) and Paralympic Games (PG) by the Canadian newspaper
The Globe and Mail. The authors found 8 high-order themes and 25 low-order
themes for the OG. The high-order themes were predicting game results, report-
ing game results, athleticism, politics, ethical issues, nationalism, the media, and
the economy. For the PG, there were 4 high-order themes, and each high-order
theme had 1 low-order theme. The high-order themes were reporting game results,
athleticism, ethical issues, and equality between Paralympians and Olympians.
Comparisons between OG and PG coverage are discussed and recommendations
for future research provided.
Keywords: athletes with disabilities, able-bodied athletes, elite athletes, textual
Sport, as a social institution, is closely linked with the media (Boyle & Haynes,
2000; Harris & Clayton, 2002; Schantz & Gilbert, 2001; Scherer & Jackson, 2004)
and is “an important conduit for the transmission of images, symbols and mean-
ings that are central to our society” (Jackson, Scherer, & Martyn, 2007, p. 178).
According to Rowe (1999), sport and media are mutually dependent: “It is little
wonder that the relationship between sport and the media is commonly described
as the happiest of marriages” (p. 32).
Newspapers are one of the most prevalent media forms along with television,
radio, and the Internet (Crossman, Vincent, & Speed, 2007). Weis (1986) stated that
the three requirements of newspaper text are to “present something, say something
about its producers and animate the reader to certain thoughts or actions” (p. 239).
Information from newspapers is absorbed and assimilated by readers with different
levels of knowledge and interest. As a result, newspapers play an important role in
socialization and education because of their critical context and a more reective,
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 27
considered presentation of ideas and images than is provided on television and the
Internet (Vincent & Crossman, 2007).
The sports section is one of the most popular and widely read sections of the
newspaper (Boyle & Haynes, 2000; Coakley & Donnelly, 2009). Although newspa-
per circulation in North America has been declining annually since the late 1980s,
the size of sports sections has increased (Vincent & Crossman, 2007). This trend
may be a reection of the pervasiveness and importance of sport in today’s society
(Knoppers & Elling, 2004). In addition, because the sports section is a popular read
in newspapers and because newspapers are a business, it is in the publishers’ best
interests to give readers what they want (Eitzen & Sage, 2009).
Media and Hegemony of the Able-Bodied in Sport
Italian social and political theorist and activist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) used
the term hegemony to describe “the power of dominant classes” (Ritchie, 2007, p.
35). A ruling class maintains hegemonic power in a peaceful society, in part, through
the mass media (Lewis, 1992). Both electronic and print media are important to the
function of cultural hegemony in society (Croteau & Hoynes, 2000).
Media narratives about sporting events help dene, normalize, inuence, and
reect dominant societal values and beliefs about gender, class, race, and body.
Historically, sport has been synonymous with upper class, White, able-bodied
males (Kane, 1988). Sport, reinforced by the media as a hegemonic social institu-
tion, naturalizes the dominant group’s power and privilege over women, the lower
class, minority racial groups, and people with physical disabilities through a bias
toward the dominant group’s coverage. Therefore, hegemony exists in sport, as well
as in other institutions in society, and is supported and reinforced by the media’s
coverage (Pedersen, 2002).
Just as the media reinforce that female athletes are subordinate in sport (Con-
nell, 1987, 1993, 2005), they also strengthen the hegemony for the able-bodied in
sport through their biased and stereotypical coverage (Barnes, 1992; Campbell &
Oliver, 1996; Thomas & Smith, 2003). Sporting events for athletes with disabilities
are usually covered in newspapers as features, not sports, because these athletes’
bodies do not reect the socially constructed norm (Shapiro, 1993). According
to Golden (2003), people with disabilities are depicted in sport as “pitiable and
pathetic; the superhuman cripple or supercrip; maladjusted; a burden; or unable
to live a successful life” (p. 79). The media reinforce able-bodied supremacy and
subordinate athletes with disabilities (Nixon, 2006). Consequently, it can be argued
that the symbiotic effect between sport and the media operates hegemonically to
produce and promote the dominant ideology of a body order. This ideology refers
to differences and inequalities between disabled and able-bodied athletes (Farnall
& Smith, 1999; Greenberg & Brand, 1994).
The Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games
The Olympic Games (OG), revived in 1896 by Pierre de Coubertin, is the most
prestigious sporting event in the world (Guttmann, 2002; Vincent, Imwold, Mase-
mann, & Johnson, 2002). From 241 participants from 14 nations in 1896, the Games
28 Chang et al.
have grown to nearly 10,500 competitors from 204 countries in 2008 (International
Olympic Committee [IOC], 2008).
In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who was working with World War II veterans
with spinal-cord injuries at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England, began
using sport as part of his patients’ rehabilitation (BBC, 2004). In July 1948, sym-
bolically coinciding with the opening of the OG in London, the Stoke Mandeville
Games for the Paralyzed launched the rst competition for wheelchair athletes. In
1960, when the Rome OG was held, Guttmann brought 400 wheelchair athletes to
the Olympic city to compete. Thus, the modern Parallel Olympics (PO; Paralym-
pics) was born. In 1976, the Paralympic Winter Games took place in Ornsköldsvik,
Sweden, with 250 skiers from 14 nations competing (CNNSI, 2000; Schantz &
In 1988, the International Coordinating Committee decided that the Games
should be truly “parallel,” so the PG was staged 2 weeks after the OG at the same
venue and facilities. This historical event served to increase the credibility of the
PG. Recently, 3,951 athletes (1,383 women) from 146 countries competed in 20
sports at the 2008 Beijing PG in China. Gold medals were awarded in 472 events.
The slogan at those games was “One Dream, One World” (International Paralympic
Qualitative Studies and Newspaper Coverage
From the media, society learns about its role in (re)presenting and circulating
ideological images of gender and national identity. Newspapers are a prevalent
media form, with the sports section being one of the most widely read sections
(Boyle, 2006; Coakley, 2007). Studies investigating the newspaper narratives of
sporting events have primarily focused on gender (Bernstein, 2002; Harris & Clay-
ton, 2002; Vincent, 2004; Vincent & Crossman, 2007, 2009), nationalism (Bruce,
2008; Vincent & Crossman, 2009; Wensing & Bruce, 2003), and racism (Eastman
& Billings, 2001; Sabo, Jansen, Tate, Duncan, & Leggett, 1996; van Sterkenburg
& Knoppers, 2004). Research conducted in the 1990s and the early 2000s found
that newspapers trivialized and marginalized athletes with disabilities and disability
sport. The depiction of athletes with disabilities in the press has largely focused
on them overcoming their disabilities. Furthermore, their achievements have been
undermined by referring to them more as “supercrips” than athletes in their own
right (Hardin & Hardin, 2004; Schantz & Gilbert, 2001; Schell & Duncan, 1999;
Thomas & Smith, 2003).
Golden (2003) interviewed 10 reporters who covered the 2002 Winter OG and
10 reporters who covered the 2002 PG to determine their attitudes toward reporting
both events. She categorized emerging themes and interpreted patterned relation-
ships and found that reporters who covered the OG said that the PG was “not a real
competition” and had “a lack of audience interest and appeal” (p. 82). A newspaper
reporter from the United States stated that the PG was an unreal competition when
he explained why he wasn’t going to cover them:
I don’t think the two events (the Olympics and the Paralympics) should be
together at all. They have no relation to each other. It [the Paralympics] is not
a real competition. You wouldn’t hold a high school tournament in Yankee Sta-
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 29
dium. You wouldn’t hold an amateur competition at Madison Square Garden.
(Anonymous, interview, February 12, 2002)
An Austrian broadcast journalist who shared his perception of audience interest
made the following remark:
No one is interested. No one wants to watch it. It is hard to produce a program
that no one wants to watch. . . . Although, it is good for the athletes to cover
them. Austrians do well at the Paralympics, but no one knows who they are.
They are not celebrities. I don’t know who they are. I couldn’t name one right
now. (Anonymous, interview, February 10, 2002)
Conversely, when reporters who covered the PG were interviewed they provided
some of the reasons they were covering the event: “raising disability awareness”
and “their recognition that the Paralympics are newsworthy” (Golden, 2003, p.
86). For instance, a Japanese reporter noted that he was covering the PG partly as
a means of raising disability awareness:
In Japan, the disabled are not seen. They are in their apartments, they are
alone. My editor wanted me to cover the Paralympics so that the readers could
learn more about them. He covered the Paralympics in Nagano, and he feels
strongly that it should be covered as a real competition. (Tanaka, interview,
March 9, 2002)
All reporters interviewed during the Paralympics stated that the PG is a real
competition, and although it was smaller, there was an interested readership. For
example, Thomas Hahn, a German print reporter with the Suddeutsche Zeitung,
There are disabled people as well which are reading newspapers—that’s my
experience when I’m at events in Germany—that disabled people are very
well interested in Paralympics for example. It is denitely a small audience
but there is an audience. I think you shouldn’t punish them in not reporting
anything about this. In my newspaper it’s a tradition that we always cover the
Paralympics. (Hahn, interview, March 14, 2002)
Some studies have performed a content analysis of the newspaper coverage of either
the OG or the PG (Öztürk, 2006; Pster, 1987; Schantz & Gilbert, 2001; Smith &
Thomas, 2005; Thomas & Smith, 2003; Urquhart & Crossman, 1999). However,
there has been no direct comparison between the media coverage of the OG and
PG held in the same year until Chang and Crossman’s (2009) and Golden’s (2003)
studies. Therefore, a direct comparison will provide a better understanding of the
difference in coverage between elite athletes with and without disabilities. The
purpose of this study is to compare the narrative newspaper coverage of athletes
competing in the 2008 Beijing OG and PG in the Canadian newspaper The Globe
30 Chang et al.
The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail is a division of CTV Globemedia Publishing Inc. The Monday-
to-Friday national circulation of The Globe and Mail is 322,807, with a national
readership of 1.32 million, and the Saturday edition has a national circulation of
410,285 and a national readership of 1.24 million (Canadian Newspaper Associa-
tion, 2008). The biggest readership group is university graduates, postgraduates,
managers and professionals, those in households with incomes of $125,000 or
greater, and those personally earning $100,000 or more. Sixty-four percent of The
Globe and Mail readers are men, but the readership of women has grown by 4.9%
compared with 2006 (GlobeLink, 2008).
Textual coverage or articles related to the 2008 Beijing OG and PG from The Globe
and Mail constituted the data that were coded by keywords and phrases. A story
is a segment about a particular topic from an article. For example, an article about
a Canadian kayaker contained two different stories: the pressure he faces because
of past successes and the anticipation that he will win a medal. To identify stories
from an article, we read the coverage and gave a number to each story. Through
this procedure, we found a total of 372 stories in 302 articles about the OG and 18
stories in 11 articles about the PG.
We employed textual analysis, which according to Vincent and Crossman (2007)
“is an unobtrusive and nonreactive tool that can be used to reveal the explicit and
subtle meanings conveyed in newspaper narratives” (p. 83). After reading the
articles, we summarized the content of each article, extracted keywords (meaning
units) from summarized contents, explored the common patterns between similar
keywords, and nally categorized the similar patterns as a theme. In this process,
we constantly discussed the results from each stage to search for dominant themes.
After various themes had been established, we compared the differences and simi-
larities between the OG and PG and how the newspaper described the normative
denition of athletes with and without disabilities.
Trustworthiness of Qualitative Studies
A qualitative study depends on the human judgment and discipline of the research-
ers, so it is necessary to indicate why the researchers should be believed (Tutty,
Rothery, & Grinnell, 1996). In this study, we used investigator triangulation to
establish the trustworthiness of the data (Thurmond, 2001). Trustworthiness was
established through use of a coding system that included extracting key sentences,
formulating key words from these, and developing clusters of themes. Two research-
ers, one of whom was experienced in qualitative analysis, independently analyzed
newspaper articles on the OG and PG (Creswell, 2008). At the end of each stage
they met to discuss and synthesize preliminary ndings.
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 31
Results and Discussion
We conducted a textual analysis of 313 articles combined for the OG and PG.
Twelve high-order themes (OG = 8, PG = 4) and 29 low-order themes (OG = 25,
PG = 4) emerged.
The Globe and Mail published 302 articles during the OG. We extracted a total of
372 key words. See Table 1 for a summary of the eight high-order themes and the
frequency and percentage of each.
Predicting Game Results. Predicting game results was the theme most frequently
referred to. This theme included ve low-order themes: anticipation of medals,
expectation of game results, predicting game results based on the rivalry between
nations or athletes, sports celebrities and predictions of their performance, and
sports events that require explanation.
The reason The Globe and Mail published this theme most often was because
sports are unpredictable (Crossman, 2007). If the outcome of a sport contest were
predictable, the competition would not excite the audience. According to Costas
(2000), “In any sport, the anticipation of what might happen is almost as important
as what actually happens” (p. 133). Because mega sporting events such as the OG
capture more interest from the public, newspapers give space to articles predicting
game results (Billings & Eastman, 2002). Consequently, to increase readers’ inter-
est, The Globe and Mail used the most space of all the Olympic themes about the
prediction of the event results with information about team rivalry, the celebrities,
and new sporting events.
This theme focused primarily on Canadian athletes and the hopes they and
Canadians had for their success. For example, an article on expectations for medals
Table 1 High-Order Themes for the Olympic Games Published by
The Globe and Mail
Theme Number of keywords Percentage
Predicting game results 88 23.7
Reporting game results 86 23.3
Athleticism 65 17.5
Politics 39 10.5
Ethical issues 39 10.5
Nationalism 23 5.9
Media 18 4.9
Economy 14 3.7
Total 372 100
32 Chang et al.
from the Canadian rowing team indicated that the power of the Canadian paddle
would likely end the country’s medal drought in Beijing: “Canada won no medals
during the rst week of the Beijing Games, but that should change this weekend
as Canadian athletes move into their element—racing small boats with muscle
power” (Hammer & Sekeres, ID145, August 16, p. A13).
The expectation of game results was another low-order theme and pertained
primarily to top international and Canadian athletes with medal expectations.
These articles focused on who would win a medal, who would be the strongest
rival against the potential winner, and what would happen in a specic sports event.
The main characters of most articles in this subtheme were top world athletes
and Canadian athletes with high performance skills. Allocating the space to top
Canadian and international athletes may increase readers’ interest in the OG and
provide them useful information. An article on women’s triathlon showed a clear
example: “Carolyn Murray of St. Albert, Alta., would seem to have the best chance
of the three Canadian women entered in the event, which will go on Monday at 10
a.m. (Beijing time). . . . Smart money says one of the Australian Emmas will be a
factor” (Sekeres, ID156, August 16, p. S5).
There were articles about predicting game results based on the rivalry between
athletes or nations. One of the articles that described predicting game results based
on the rivalry between Japan and China in male gymnastics was titled “Horizontal
Bar, Japan Are China’s Main Obstacles,” and the article predicted that “China
and Japan will ght for gold and silver” (Quoted from Reuters, ID 60, August 12,
Articles about sports celebrities also gave readers expectations about how
sports gures contribute to winning for their country’s team. One example was
China’s basketball hero, Yao Ming. Fred Lum, who wrote an article on Yao Ming,
described him as a symbol of the country, as well as the best player: “For Mother
China, Yao Ming is a torch runner, a ag-bearer, a hero, a philanthropist and a
symbol of the country. The government called him a ‘model worker’” (Sekeres,
ID 32, August 11, p. S1).
Articles introducing a sport event unfamiliar to readers included an explanation
of the rules and regulations of the game and expectation for the event result. The
following dened the decathlon: “The decathlon . . . is a test of endurance, strength
and technical skill involving two sprints, three throws, three jumps and two more
demanding runs” (Sekeres, ID 216, August 20, p. S5).
Reporting Game Results. Newspapers play an important role in bringing readers
fresh and accurate accounts of contemporary happenings (Jeffries, Cutietta, Lee, &
Sekerka, 1999; Kieran, 1998). This function of newspapers helps readers become
better informed and make wiser decisions by providing facts about, for example,
national and international politics, business, and sports.
Reporting game results was the second most frequently presented theme. The
Globe and Mail provided a more detailed description about medalists or athletes
with high performance skills. Those who did not make the podium received two
or three lines.
People are generally more interested in the OG than the PG, so audiences want
to know the results of performances and games, and newspapers deliver accurate and
prompt results. Consequently, The Globe and Mail provided a more detailed descrip-
tion of the Olympic medalists and their performances than of other athletes who did
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 33
not make the podium. According to Coakley and Donnelly (2009), media coverage
highlights winners because winning seems to be more valuable in sports culture.
Athleticism. Athleticism contained three subthemes: overcoming physical and
psychological difculties such as injuries and pressure from the public, devotion to
team, and athletes dominating a game. The ultimate goal for many high-performance
athletes is to represent their country in the OG and PG. In the process, athletes can
confront obstacles such as injury and pressure to win. For example, Kyle Shewfelt,
a Canadian gymnast who was the 2004 gold medalist, broke both kneecaps during
a routine training session on November 2007 and recovered to compete at the
In just nine months, he (Shewfelt) went from relying on a wheelchair to
recapturing his status as a world-class gymnast. This past week in Beijing, he
only narrowly missed qualifying for the nal eight in both the oor and vault
competitions. (White, ID 183, August 18, p. L4)
Athletes who had won medals in previous OG or international competitions
were under excessive pressure to win from the media and the public. The burden
of expectations is one of the important factors that affect an athlete’s performance.
A Canadian kayaker, Adam van Koeverden, is a good example. He was under a
lot of pressure from the media and Canadians and failed to win a medal in the K-1
1,000 (Blatchford, 2008). However, after disappointment in the 1,000 m, he came
back to earn a medal in the 500. “AVK faced it head on. He didn’t inch from the
truth of his failure, but looked at it squarely, mystied, bewildered, but already
you could see that even in his agony he was trying to analyze it” (Blatchford, ID
295, August 25, p. S5).
As an Olympic athlete, no greater glory can be gained than winning a medal.
However, some athletes sacrice themselves for their teams and countries. Brent
Hayden, who passed up an individual event to join Canada’s 4 × 100-m relay team,
was a great example of devotion to team and country: “Brent Hayden went for
team glory instead of individual gain on Monday morning, taking himself out of
the 200-metre freestyle semi-nals to help the Canadian men’s relay team swim
for a medal” (Maki, ID 49, August 11, p. S6).
At the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps attracted much public and media atten-
tion. The swimmer won a record total of eight gold medals and holds the record
for the most gold medals at a single Olympics. As a result, his extraordinary
performance dominated the Olympic coverage in The Globe and Mail. Maki and
Trevisan described his excellent performance as follows:
Phelps denitely stands out. But only because the camera can’t keep away,
and can’t quite reconcile the difference between his ritualized Zen-like focus
(including precisely 2 and 1/2 arm aps on the starting block) and the violent
physicality that’s about to erupt as he sets out to swim faster than anyone has
done before.” (ID 148, August 16, p. S1 and 2)
Society expects Olympians to be ambitious, condent, bold, and courageous
(Hargreaves, 1990; Louise, 2000). Those characteristics are described as athleticism.
The journalists in this study often wrote about athletes who overcame physical
and psychological difculties, were devoted to their team, and dominated their
34 Chang et al.
sports. Similarly, Vincent (2000) and Yu (2009) found that newspaper coverage
emphasizes athletes’ achievement and performance. For example, when athletes
face and overcome obstacles such as injury and the pressure to win, newspapers
describe them as heroic (Yu, 2009).
Politics. Organized competitive sports have long been connected with politics,
government, and the nation-state (Coakley & Donnelly, 2009). With regard to the
relationship between sports and politics, we found two subthemes: improvement
of Canadian sports environments and the role of sports over political issues.
The Beijing OG was the last OG to be held before the 2010 Winter Olympics
in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Therefore, The Globe and Mail reported various prob-
lems at the Beijing OG and gave suggestions regarding new policies to develop
Canadian sports. The biggest issue was related to funding. From the start of the
opening ceremonies until August 16, Canada had not earned a medal. As a result,
directors from some sports organizations questioned the funding policy of the Cana-
dian government. Lane MacAdam, executive director of Sport Excellence, which
oversees a part of Canadian amateur sport funding, indicated, “There’s no question
when the proposals went forward we knew full well that adjustments a year to 18
months prior to the Games would not have a huge impact” (Walton, Sekeres, Maki
& Trevisan, ID 99, August 14, pp. A1 and 11). The head of the Canadian Olympic
Committee, Chris Rudge, suggested a new policy for sports funding:
The COC chief said 35 improvements had been made in the COC’s athlete-
support programs since Athens, but Canada needs more athletes in its system,
more and better sport facilities and increased federal support to help convert
world championship results to Olympic results. “I appeal to Prime Minister
Harper for all of the $30-million [a year] we asked for,” Rudge said. “Put an
order-in-council, now. . . . If we’re going to play with the big boys and be a
G-8 nation, let’s be G-8 all the way.” (Cheung, Lum, & Ridewood, ID 289,
August 25, p. S1)
Journalists Christie and Trevisan said, “After four barren days without medals
in Beijing, Canada’s athletes and sports administrators were already pointing
accusatory ngers at the government for lack of funding” (The Globe and Mail,
August 13, 2008, p. A13). They also said that the Canadian government should
invest in elite winter sports as the host country of the 2010 Winter OG because it
is a chance for the Canadian government to announce to the world its existence as
a nation with a strong sports performance (Eitzen & Sage, 2009).
The Globe and Mail released stories about the role of sports over political issues
between nations. Just 1 day before the Olympics began there was an armed conict
between Georgia and Russia. After it happened, Georgia considered withdrawing
from the Olympics, but the country’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, instructed
his country’s 35-member team to remain in Beijing. Later Sunday morning, Nino
Salukvadze won Georgia’s rst medal. After the competition, the Russian silver
medalist, Natalia Paderina, shared the podium with her.
“This is a small victory for my people,” Salukvadze told Agence France-Presse.
Of Paderina, she added: “When it comes to sport, we will always remain friends.
If the world were to draw any lessons from what we do, there wouldn’t be any
wars.” (Quoted from The New York Times, ID 46, August 11, p. S6)
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 35
Another example was in a baseball game between the United States and Cuba.
This event showed how political foes can compete in harmony. One journalist,
focused on the game rather than the politics between the United States and Cuba,
Stands lled with baseball fans, passionate baseball fans. Two teams, the United
States and Cuba, with a high degree of skill, if somewhat different mindsets
about the game and very different looks: the Cubans in their luminescent all
red uniforms, pants worn long and baggy, Manny-style; the U.S. team in crisp,
traditional white. . . . Secure and happy in the knowledge that the sour-faced
men who think they own this game are far away. They even played that most
heavenly of tunes: Take Me Out to the Ball Game. (King, ID 155, August 16,
These stories illustrate that athletes can override politics and that sport is a tool
of foreign policy and can be used as a prelude to formal relations between countries
(Yu, 2009). Many nations use the OG to establish and reinforce their identity and
legitimacy on the world stage, and nations believe that when their athletes win
medals, their image is enhanced around the world (Kidd, 1991).
Ethical Issues. Various ethical issues surrounding the OG arose. The Globe and
Mail reported stories about deviance in sports, including falsifying the ages of
contestants, biased judging, and doping, human rights, racism, and sexual issues.
The age of six Chinese female gymnasts was a contentious issue during the
Games. According to the International Gymnastics Federation, gymnasts must
turn 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible. Concerns over eligibility of the
six gymnasts surfaced before the Olympics and continued during the OG. When
the women’s team won the team event, the U.S national team coordinator, Martha
Karolyi, called into question the ages of some of China’s gymnasts. “One of the
girls has a missing tooth, [but] I have no proof, so I can’t make an afrmation. . . .
Certain countries go by the rules, but certain countries may not” (Macur, ID 111,
August 14, p. S6). As a result, the International Gymnastics Federation and the
IOC began an ofcial investigation. Although the IOC announced that there was
no evidence of cheating, the suspicions persisted.
Judging also came into question. Some referees in gymnastics, boxing, shoot-
ing, and wrestling made controversial decisions, and this raised questions in The
Globe and Mail. A Swedish wrestler’s story best exemplies this issue. The 33-year-
old Armenian-born wrestler, Ara Abrahamian, accepted his bronze medal, stepped
off the podium and threw it away to protest what he called a corrupt system. He told
reporters, “I think the semi-nal shows that FILA [wrestling’s governing body] does
not play fair. I didn’t deserve to lose. The system is corrupt. . . . This is political”
(Maki, ID 129, August, 15, p. S4). Some athletes and coaches complained of the
political power and bias of referees. A coach for Canadian men’s trampoline, Dave
Ross, seemed to agree that there were biased decisions from referees. He stated,
The judges from Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Australia
and Belgium were marking harder across the board, Ross said, compared with
the qualication round last week. . . . Ross also pointed out that European
judges tend to look at Canadians as “outsiders from the colonies.” (Walton,
ID 207, August 20, p. S2)
36 Chang et al.
Most coverage about doping in The Globe and Mail focused on doping tests
with new technologies. IOC President Jacques Rogge predicted, “There will be
30 to 40 positive doping tests at the 2008 Olympics” (ID 3, The Globe and Mail,
August 8, p. S2). According to the IOC (2010), out of 4,770 samples, 20 were
positive. John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said, “Cheats
who think they can escape detection today could nd themselves unmasked and
stripped of medals when new technologies are used in the future” (ID 3, The Globe
and Mail, August 8, p. S2).
Fifteen members of the Spanish Olympic basketball team slanted their eyes
in an advertisement to appear Chinese. Although team members said it was never
intended to be offensive, many people of Chinese origin were angered by it. Victor
Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council, said, “This
photo is deeply offensive and racist—it’s surprising that members of an Olympic
team preparing for the Games in Beijing of all places would show such poor judg-
ment” (York & Sekeres, ID 100, August 14, p. A11). The next day, José Calderon,
who was a member of the Spanish team and who is the Toronto Raptors’ guard,
apologized for the photo. “We didn’t mean to hurt anyone. We apologize to Asian
people if they were offended” (Sekeres, ID 132, August 15, p. S5). He reasoned,
“Spain is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Maybe some
people in Spain come through like that, but in England or the U.S. they have
the same problem. We don’t feel we did something bad. It’s wrong to interpret
it as racist.” (Sekeres, ID 132, August 15, p. S5)
Most articles on sexual issues in sports focused primarily on female athletes
and described them as sex objects (Blatchford, 2008). Journalists seemed to have
two totally different perspectives on sexual issues. The rst was publicizing eques-
trians by highlighting female riders’ sex appeal. An article quoted from Agence
France-Presse titled “Sex Sells for Equestrians” said,
As if show jumpers don’t look glamorous enough in their breeches and boots,
riders and the ofcials of the sport are debating whether sex is the key to attract-
ing more fans and money. . . . This month, two [female] show jumpers were
pictured in the Daily Telegraph wearing little more than boots and whips. . . .
A senior ofcial of the sport’s controlling body, the International Equestrian
Federation who did not wish to be identied, described the use of scantily
clad young women to raise show jumping’s prole as “vulgar.” (Quoted from
Agence France-Presse, ID 247, August 21, p. S6)
Another story revealed a different perspective on using sex. The journalist
said, “It’s an individual choice to be a nude model” (Blatchford, ID 81, August 13,
p. A13). She had interviewed Waneek Horn-Miller, who was a former Canadian
water polo player and who had appeared on the cover of Time magazine naked.
Ms. Horn-Miller emphasized that the female athlete’s body plays an important role
in shaping an image of a healthy woman:
“It’s one chance every four years to get out an image of a healthy athletic
woman instead of an underweight, underage model. Athletes’ bodies are much
healthier—and they’re functional. . . . It’s natural to look for the body ideal. . . .
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 37
As humans, we like the physically good-looking, the beautiful.” (Blatchford,
ID 81, August 15, p. A13)
Although the Chinese said they were trying to improve conditions in human
rights, many articles published by The Globe and Mail before the opening cer-
emonies proved that human rights was still a huge concern. Some of the notable
issues included the repression of Tibetans and other minorities, harassment of the
foreign press, pollution, and censorship (The Globe and Mail, August 9, 2008, p.
A15). However, derogatory comments by the press about these problems changed
after the successful opening ceremonies. With regard to the improvement of human
rights in China,
Despite severe limitations, there are hundreds of new legislative enactments
that protect property rights and workers’ rights. China has abolished a system
that restricted freedom of movement among regions, and citizens can hold on
to their passports to travel abroad. (Jiang, ID 17, August 9, p. A15)
However, during the OG the tone of the newspaper regarding China’s human
rights was reversed when the IOC criticized the Chinese government because it
did not allow protests at the designated zones:
In reality, many of those who applied were detained or jailed by the authori-
ties, human rights groups say, arguing that China used the protest zones as
a propaganda tactic to give the appearance of complying with international
standards, while actually using the application process to identify potential
protesters. IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies made it clear that the IOC is
unhappy with China’s refusal to allow protests at the designated zones. (York,
ID 228, August 21, p. A13)
Based on statistical data from Reporters Without Borders, York wrote more
critical articles about human rights in China after the closing ceremonies:
If there was an alternative Olympic medal list for human rights violations, it
would contain numbers like these: 53 detained pro-Tibet activities, 77 rejected
protest applications. . . . Instead, it arrested at least 15 people who asked for
permission to protest in the ofcial zones. (York, ID 288, August 25, p. A9)
Nationalism. The media help people see and feel their national identity, and
newspaper readers see the news as part of their own identity (Hartley, 1992).
Sports events are usually structured by the media in an “us versus them” narrative
when athletes representing their own country compete against athletes from other
countries (Coakley & Donnelly, 2009).
The Globe and Mail used Canadian athletes as vehicles to reinforce national
identity. Carol Huynh, who won gold in women’s freestyle wrestling and was a
Vietnamese refugee, was an example. The article described Canada as a broad-
minded nation by emphasizing Huynh and her family’s previous nationality:
It was the most splendid of moments: the gold medalist standing atop the
podium and crying to the strains of O Canada while her parents, two Vietnam
refugees wearing Go Carol T-Shirts, watched from the stands, the Proudest of
38 Chang et al.
Canadians. . . . Asked whether being in China had made the experience even
more special, Viem [Huynh’s father] said: “I don’t think about it because, you
know, now I’m in Canada for almost 30 years. I’m a Canadian now.” (Maki,
ID 179, August 18, p. S5)
Another issue was sports and nationality. Some athletes wanted to get a chance
to show their skills under a different nationality. However, their decisions to do
so disappointed fans and ofcials from their mother countries. There were two
slightly different stories about a change of nationality. The rst involved Jonathan
De Guzman, who was born in Toronto and was able to show his soccer skills in the
OG by changing his nationality to that of the Netherlands. Jeff Blair commented
negatively on De Guzman’s renunciation of Canadian nationality:
He knows that his playing for the Netherlands will not sit well with some
people in Canadian soccer. His decision upset fans and ofcials who envisioned
him playing for the Canadian team, just like his brother Julian, who plays for
Deportivo Coruna in Spain. (Blair, ID 19, August 9, p. S1)
The other story was about Becky Hammon, who was born in the United States
but played for Russia. However, The Globe and Mail focused on her athletic abil-
ity, unlike De Guzman:
The pre-Olympic Diamond Ball tournament was her rst with the team, and
it included a blowout loss to the United States. But Russia has improved as a
team as Hammon has put her mark on the squad. “You always have a chance,
but it’s a long shot,” she said. (Quoted from The New York Times, ID 243,
August 21, p. S6)
The media describes the OG as “war without weapons” (Drehle, 2000). This
symbolic war shows that success in international sporting events such as the OG
can trigger pride among a nation’s citizens and unite a nation. According to Eitzen
and Sage (2009), “the Olympic Games and other international sports competi-
tions produce and promote an ‘us versus them’ feeling among athletes, coaches,
politicians, the press and citizens” (p. 200). This adversarial image indicates that
international sporting events and nationalism are closely intertwined. Similar to
previous studies (Darnell & Sparks, 2005; Hargreaves, 1992; Tzanelli, 2006), this
study found a relationship between sports and nationalism. The Globe and Mail
used Huynh, who won gold in women’s freestyle wrestling, to reinforce national-
ism. In the 2004 OG, Darnell and Sparks found that the Canadian media tried to
strengthen national identity using Canadian athlete Simon Whiteld, who won a
gold medal in the triathlon. They noted,
As well as highlighting Whiteld, these narratives also indirectly asserted
the legitimacy of sports as a terrain in which Canadian identity is expressed.
This occurred as Whiteld’s story became connected to a diffuse but well-
established understanding that, although Canadians are a culturally diverse and
geographically dispersed people, Canadian athletes transcend these differences
and reveal an underlying identity and nobleness of character that is laudatory
and uniquely Canadian. (p. 358)
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 39
In this sense, both the Huynh and Whiteld cases highlight the ideological con-
nection in Canada between sports and national identity.
The Media. We found two low-order themes about the media: comments on the OG
broadcasting and new media. During the OG, columnist William Houston regularly
wrote articles about Olympics broadcasting. He introduced readers to the CBC
broadcasting schedule and praised CBC’s efforts as Canada’s Olympic broadcaster:
The CBC, after a 12-year run as Canada’s Olympic network, leave the arena
with a record that includes thorough coverage, live programming any time of
day and a high standard of broadcasting. . . . At these Games, the CBC devoted
15 of 24 hours every day to coverage. And on two of three weekends, every
hour of the day was lled, but for 90 minutes. (ID 301, August 25, p. S8)
However, because the CTV, The Globe and Mail’s subsidiary, is taking over
Canada’s Olympic broadcast rights for Vancouver 2010 and London 2012, Houston
also made some critical comments on the CBC’s broadcasting: “This also will be the
CBC’s most expensive Olympics. The corporation paid $45-million for the rights,
well above the previous high of $33-million for Athens” (ID 7, August 8, p. S3).
The Internet has changed information access. With this change, the CBC took
its rst big step into the digital world by providing 1,500 hours of online content.
Houston wrote about the digital world in the OG and said, “The important and
lasting story of the Beijing Olympics is the extraordinary technological advances”
(Houston, ID 270, August 23, p. S2). He praised the attraction of Web sites for the
The TV numbers have been very good and the online trafc even better. . . .
At CBCSports.ca, the numbers are also large. The website has received more
than 27 million page views, compared with 1.2 million over the same period
last year. (ID227, August 21, p. A 12)
However, Christie Blatchford had a different stance on the new media. She
described her experience on blogging and criticized it:
It was posted on The Globe’s Games Blog at 10:23 a.m., Beijing time. Mr.
Sekeres wrote three paragraphs. . . . And journalism wasn’t meant to be a
conversation, anyway. It was maybe a monologue, at its most democratic a
carefully constructed dialogue. If readers didn’t like or agree with the mono-
logues in paper A, they bought paper B. What was most important about their
opinions was that they thought enough to spend the coin. . . . The thing that
I know, as all the editors I have had also know, is what I didn’t get to conde
or write or commit to paper, because someone else had the good sense to put
on the brakes. There are no brakes, and thus there is no joy, in blogville. (ID
227, August 21, p. A 12)
In her quotation, she said that reporters covering the OG had only a couple of
minutes to write and le a story because readers wanted to read and see information
immediately, especially about the big events (Blatchford, 2008). As a result, report-
ers did not make thoughtful copy and readers did not obtain articles of high quality.
40 Chang et al.
The Economy. There were two low-order themes about the relationship between
sports and the economy: the economic effects of the OG and global corporate
sponsorship. Most articles about the economy were about the effects of economic
development as a result of the OG. Angela Barnes, an investment reporter, said,
In the past six Olympic Games, there had been an average 19.12-per-cent
increase in the hosting countries’ stock indexes in the six months following
the Games. The gain in the 12 months after the Olympics was even larger—at
26.14 percent. . . . Not all the gold in the Olympics is going to be made by the
athletes; savvy investors are going to make some, too. (ID 10, August 8, p. S 8)
She explained that the infrastructure construction and system establishment for the
Olympics gave a lasting boost to the hosting nation’s economy. Therefore, although
the growth in those hosting countries showed a certain degree of decline, the hosting
nation’s economy maintained a relatively high speed of growth.
The other stories about the relationship between sports and the economy
focused on global corporate sponsorship. The large corporations that sponsor par-
ticular events know the costs and benets associated with the events. For example,
Nike was looking to the men’s basketball team for one of the big medal moments
that companies crave from the OG. Phil Knight, a cofounder of Nike, said in an
interview with The Globe and Mail,
“We see this year’s games—which drew the company’s largest Olympics
investment ever—as a success. It created a new product for every sport and
outtted 22 of the 28 federations. . . . In U.S. men’s basketball, Nike outts 11
of 12 players.” (Quoted from the Associated Press, ID 249, August 21, p. B7)
However, Nike faced unexpected disappointments because of the withdrawal of
Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, and they lost the spotlight to competitors such as Speedo,
which endorsed Michael Phelps and created the famed LZR Racer suit, and Puma,
which outtted Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who swept the 100- and 200-m sprints.
We found articles about the relationship between the OG and the economic
effects on China, the host nation. According to Toohey and Veal (2000), the OG is
no longer just a sporting event. The Games include cultural, political, and economic
components. More specically, the OG is seen as a media event, tourist attraction,
and marketing opportunity. Preuss (2004) said the OG is an event that can potentially
have a signicant economic impact on the host city and host nation.
We extracted a total of 18 keywords from 11 articles from The Globe and Mail
during the PG. See Table 2 for a summary of the four high-order themes and the
frequency and percentage of each.
Reporting Game Results. Studies have shown that newspaper coverage of the
Paralympics is results oriented (Chang & Crossman, 2009; Schantz & Gilbert,
2001; Smith & Thomas, 2005; Thomas & Smith, 2003). However, in this study,
articles by the Canadian Press were about athletes who were and were not on the
podium, and they not only showed their results but also gave various explanations
for the outcome. One of the articles described how Chantal Petitclerc, a Canadian
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 41
Paralympic wheelchair sprinter and winner of the women’s 100-m, overcame
psychological pressure and achieved success:
“I’m not used to chasing. I am just really happy that I overcame the pressure
when I saw they were ahead. My start wasn’t that great. But I wanted to get a
gold medal in my rst race because I have a really busy week ahead.” (Quoted
from the Canadian Press, ID 307, Sept. 11, p. S2)
The Globe and Mail published articles about athletes who did not medal and
how they felt about their performance. Mark Breton, one of the men’s cycling
sprint team members said:
“We’re very pleased with our race. We didn’t make any mistakes and that earned
us a strong result. We gave our maximum and our relays were smooth. That
helped us beat the time we earned at the Pan Am Championships last year.”
(Quoted from the Canadian Press, ID 307, Sept. 11, p. S2)
Newspapers publish sport-specic information concerning PG winners (Chang
& Crossman, 2009; Golden, 2003; Thomas & Smith, 2003). Similarly, Schantz and
Gilbert (2001), who analyzed the Paralympic coverage in four French and four
German newspapers, wrote, “We could not nd a patronizing attitude concerning
the defeat of athletes, simply because the newspapers did only talk about medal
winners” (p. 84). Contrary to previous research, in this study we found that textual
discourse in The Globe and Mail was about athletes with disabilities who did and
did not medal, their results, and explanations for their performances. These nd-
ings support those of Thomas and Smith (2003), who found that the performances
of athletes with disabilities were often reported in similar ways to those of able-
bodied athletes, with particular emphasis on records, medals, and results, without
describing an athlete’s disability.
Athleticism. In previous studies, athletes with disabilities were described as
victims rather than real athletes (Schantz & Gilbert, 2001; Thomas & Smith, 2003).
According to Golden (2003), people with disabilities have been depicted in sport as
“pitiable and pathetic; the superhuman cripple or supercrip; maladjusted; a burden;
or unable to live a successful life” (p. 79). When athletes with disabilities do break
Table 2 High-Order Themes for the Paralympic Games Published
by The Globe and Mail
Reporting game results 7 38.8
Athleticism 4 22.2
Ethical issues 4 22.2
Equity between the Olympic and Paralympic Games 3 16.8
Total 18 100
42 Chang et al.
into mainstream sports pages, it is either in a story about the “supercrip” mold or
a story involving controversy over the athlete. In the current study, however, The
Globe and Mail portrayed some athletes with disabilities as real athletes or the best
Canadian athletes. Petitclerc was described as a sports heroine, nation builder, and
trailblazer. James Christie reported about her as follows:
Petitclerc shows that everything is possible. She has been a symbol for the
recognition of wheelchair athletes as equal players, rather than victims of
accidents. In 2002, she was the rst Canadian athlete in a wheelchair to gain
a Commonwealth Games medal that was included ofcially in the count for
Canada, no more a demonstration participant. In 2006, she led the Canadian
team into the massive Melbourne Cricket Grounds as the ag-bearer. In the
sports world, coach Peter Eriksson said Petitclerc made the Paralympics more
professional and competitive. (ID 312, Sept. 17, p. S3)
We could not nd articles describing athletes with disabilities as “victims”
or “supercrips.” Instead, the reporters portrayed some athletes with disabilities as
“real athletes” or “the best Canadian athletes.” In contrast to previous studies that
described athletes with disabilities as “overcoming their disability” and “victims of
tragic misfortune” (Barnes, 1992; Golden, 2003; Schantz & Gilbert, 2001; Schell &
Duncan, 1999), the medalists with disabilities in the 2008 Games were represented
in ways that emphasized their superior skills.
Ethical Issues. Despite the Chinese government’s assertions that human rights
would improve if Beijing was chosen to host the OG, we found articles contesting
human rights for persons with disabilities in China. These articles explained
the current situation of people with disabilities in China and how the Chinese
government wanted to introduce policies to give better opportunities to them
by hosting the PG. Geoffrey York, a Globe and Mail reporter covering the PG,
commented on the situation people with disabilities face in China and suggested
some ideas to improve their treatment:
China’s 83 million disabled people are almost invisible, rarely seen in public.
They have endured decades of discrimination and neglect in a society. Six out
of 100 people have disabilities, but most of them stay at home. Few taxis and
buses can carry wheelchairs. We unconsciously lock the disabled people at
home. . . . The sporting event will make a huge difference in Chinese aware-
ness of the disabled people. (ID 303, Sept. 6, p. A19)
We found that the human rights issue for people with disabilities was a
unique topic compared with previous research on the PG (Chang & Crossman,
2009; Golden, 2003; Schantz & Gilbert, 2001; Smith & Thomas, 2005; Thomas
& Smith, 2003).
Equality Between Paralympians and Olympians. The Globe and Mail published
articles comparing Paralympians to Olympians to emphasize the excellent
performance of athletes with disabilities. “They [wheelchair rugby players] train
just as hard as able-bodied athletes. . . . Mainstream is (our) dream, and it’s not
a pipe dream. Every time people see our sport, they agree that it’s a spectacular
sight” (York, ID 309, Sept. 15, p. S1, S9).
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 43
Blatchford compared Petitclerc, who won ve gold medals in wheelchair racing,
to Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who won three gold medals, and Michael Phelps of the
United States, who won eight gold medals, to emphasize the value of her performance:
“Petitclerc’s performance stood out for the Paralympics the way record setting sprinter
Usain Bolt of Jamaica and gold-covered swimmer Michael Phelps of the US did at
the Olympic Games last month” (313, Sept. 18, p. S2). We argue that making these
comparisons could be construed as a put-down of people with disabilities. Petitclerc’s
performance was exceptional and does not require a qualier or other exemplar.
The OG and PG Compared
From results of qualitative comparisons of newspaper coverage of the 2008 Beijing
OG and PG, we found that there were not only differences in the number of both
high- and low-order themes between the OG (8 high-order themes, 25 low-order
themes) and PG (4 high-order themes, 4 low-order themes) but also differences in
the content of those themes.
It is important to remember that newspaper editors and journalists are in the
business of selling their product—newspapers. Consequently, for the most part
they do not take an altruistic perspective regarding what they choose to cover.
Rather, they run stories that the readership is most interested in, and that affected
the results of this study.
Three themes were common to both Games (reporting game results, athleticism,
and ethical issues). For the OG, reporting game results was reserved for those who
medaled, whereas for the PG, textual coverage was given to the athletes regardless
of the outcome of their performance. The reason for this may be that The Globe and
Mail editors and journalists felt that readers were more interested in the participation
angle for the Paralympians rather than focusing on only those that had medaled.
Readers may feel differently about Paralympians than about Olympians regard-
ing the denition of success, and this topic would be interesting and worthwhile
to investigate. To have competed in the PG may be just as important as winning.
Conversely, editors may also perceive that readers interested in the OG may only
be interested in those who climb the podium.
With regard to the theme of athleticism, the OG and the PG focused on different
low-order themes. For the PG, coverage no longer showed participants as victims
but rather as athletes in their own right. We hope that someday the discussion sur-
rounding whether athletes with disabilities are “real” athletes will be nonexistent.
In other words, Paralympians are as real as Olympians; only how they “do sport”
is sometimes different and often involves using different equipment.
Five of six ethical issues covered by The Globe and Mail during the OG were
Olympics related and had been seen at previous Olympics, including biased judg-
ing, doping, racism, and so on. Through the media, the OG and PG command the
world’s attention and provide opportunities for protest. Both the OG and PG covered
human rights issues—the PG’s coverage honing in on the human rights of people
with disabilities, but only in China.
Four themes that the OG had that the PG did not were politics, nationalism, the
media, and economics. Because the Olympics is still the largest multisport event in
the world and because so much media attention is given to it, it is not surprising that
issues concerning politics and nationalism are brought to the forefront every 4 years.
44 Chang et al.
Likewise, news about how the media deliver this global event was a theme in
its own right. Because of the commercialism associated with this spectacle that
was once reserved for only amateur athletes, news related to economic issues sur-
rounding the OG gures largely in the press. All the four aforementioned themes
are a result of the fact that the OG is still more popular from a consumer perspec-
tive than the PG. Golden (2003) interviewed journalists covering the OG and PG,
and those interviewed generally felt that the Paralympians could not compete on
the same level as the Olympic athletes. They compared the PG to the Women’s
National Basketball Association and spoke of both as sports that had not caught
on and were not that popular.
The newspaper’s selected narratives played a major role in constructing, (re)
producing, and reinforcing narratives that communicate shared meanings, under-
standings, and values about athletes who are able-bodied and disabled. Contrary
to previous research (Barnes, 1992; Golden, 2003; Hardin, 2006; Hardin, Lynn,
Walsdorf, & Hardin, 2002; Thomas & Smith, 2003), hegemony of the able-bodied
was not prevalent in the current study. Rather, we found that narratives about
the performances of the Paralympians were reported in ways similar to those of
Olympians, honing in on records, medals, and results. In addition, The Globe and
Mail covered athletes with disabilities who both medaled and did not medal. This
approach contrasted with that to the Olympians, who had to reach the podium to
get press coverage in The Globe and Mail.
The newspaper also portrayed athletes with disabilities as “real athletes” rather
than “supercrips” or “victims,” as they have been described in the past. Paralym-
pians who were asked to comment on their performances focused on issues such
as technique, similar to what able-bodied athletes would do. Of particular note
was the Canadian Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc, who was described in glowing
terms as the best Canadian athlete and compared with Olympians Usain Bolt and
Recommendations for Future Research
Although this study gives us some encouragement that the nature of newspaper
narratives about disabled athletes might someday be equitable compared with
able-bodied athletes, more questions than answers remain. A more comprehensive
study on the comparison between athletes with and without disabilities needs to be
completed for other international sports competitions such as the Commonwealth
Games, which was the rst major international multisport event to include elite
athletes with disabilities in its main sports program and medal table (Smith &
Thomas, 2005). The direct comparisons between athletes with and without dis-
abilities in other international sporting events will provide a better understanding
of the social representation of athletes with disabilities and disability sport in the
media and extend the generalization of the ndings. This research could also be
extended to race events such as the Boston Marathon, which has had a category
for athletes with disabilities since 1975.
Additional studies are needed to determine whether able-bodied hegemony is
present in the Internet coverage of the OG and PG, because few studies have exam-
ined body-related Internet sports coverage. According to Kian (2006), “Research
on Internet sport media coverage is in its infancy” (p. 111). These studies could
2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games 45
compare content on specic Web sites about the OG and PG, analyze content from
an Internet site of a newspaper and mainstream sport sites such as CBC SportsLine
and ESPN Internet, or look at who is following the PG online. This analysis will
provide a better understanding of the difference in the description of elite athletes
with and without disabilities between the newspapers and new-media forms.
Future cross-cultural studies would improve our understanding of the social
representation of athletes with disabilities in the media around the world. In addi-
tion, a cross-cultural analysis of the same games will give researchers insight into
the nature of the textual coverage, furthering our perceptions of how athletes, both
with and without disabilities, are seen by the media.
There have been few studies concerning the attitudes and experiences of people
who write and edit newspaper articles (Hardin, 2006; Kian, 2006). A limitation of the
current study is that we did not know how sports editors made decisions about what
to cover for the 2008 OG and PG and how journalists constructed their coverage
of athletes competing in them. Future studies could also compare the attitudes and
perceptions of sports reporters and editors about decisions they make with regard
to OG and PG coverage. Another limitation was that the data were collected from
one newspaper. Including newspapers from other countries and also the host city
would afford further nationalistic comparisons and a more complete understanding
of newspaper narratives of the OG and PG.
This study found that Paralympians were treated more like bona de athletes than
previous studies found (Nelson, 1994; Nixon, 2007; Schantz & Gilbert, 2001;
Thomas & Smith, 2003). However, we found evidence that textual coverage of
athletes with disabilities competing in the PG still does not have the depth and
breadth of that of the OG. However, some results give us reason for hope. The
narratives about Paralympians are changing from “supercrips” to “real athletes.”
Those small steps may contribute to changing readers’ attitudes about people with
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