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Culture @ the Olympics

issues, trends and perspectives

Non-accredited media, Olympic Games

and the host city
The British Academy 2004 project
Beatriz García and Andy Miah

This project has assessed study the playing out of national

the utility of non-accredited identities and cultural politics.
media centres as a platform Often referred to as the biggest
event in the world, the Olympic
for securing appropriate
Games have become a site for
media reporting of local important political statements,
cultures during the such as the time in Mexico (1968)
Olympic Games. The when athletes Tommie Smith and
research conducted in John Carlos protested the
Athens during the 2004 treatment of black Americans by
Summer Olympic Games raising black-gloved hands on
their medal podium.
built on the findings of
earlier work at the Sydney In recent years, research has
2000 and Salt Lake City focused on social and economic
2002 Olympics. impacts and the role of the media
in transforming the Games into a
globally shared experience. This
Background and Context research demonstrates that media
coverage of the Games plays a
Since their inauguration in 1896, vital role in projecting an image
the Modern Olympic Games have of the local host, but that the
been researched through various current structures of Games
academic traditions. With the organisers and media providers
formalisation of cognate research undermine the representation of
areas such as media, cultural culturally diverse voices. By
studies, and sport and leisure focusing on reporting the
studies in the 1970s, social sporting competitions and official
research into the Olympics has ceremonies, the media fails to
developed steadily. The Games reflect the particularities of each
have been considered by Olympic festival. As such, the
anthropologists and sociologists cultural context of the Games,
as a rich source from which to including street activity and other

Culture @ the Olympics, 2004: vol. 1, issue 1, pp. 1-7

cultural programming, is often Looking towards the future, this

lost or misrepresented. work can be useful for the broad
social study of events, but also,
This trend could change with the more specifically, for the city to
development of alternative media host the Olympic Games in 2012.
provisions, a phenomenon that London is currently one of the
has evolved since the creation of candidate cities. Since the London
the first official ‘non-accredited bid must be submitted in
media centre’ (NAMC) at the November 2004, the Athens
Sydney 2000 Games. The NAMC Olympics offers a unique
is distinct from the accredited moment to study the role of the
media centres, which are NAMC, which can provide
reserved only for the official additional, valuable information
media right-holders under for the bid strategy. By
exclusive national arrangements. researching the NAMCs, it is
The main function of accredited possible to further understand
centres is to provide facilities and how an Olympic bid can better
information for the reporting of promote Olympic values, such as
sporting competitions. In cultural diversity.
contrast, the NAMCs are open to
any media representative
(including freelance journalists) Objectives
and offer a significant amount of
material on human-interest The main objectives of the project
stories, local activity groups, and were to:
the Olympic cultural programme.
1. Understand the operational
As a recent phenomenon, no structure and function of the
research has yet been conducted NAMC in contrast to the
on the role and potential of the accredited Olympic media
NAMC. This project intends to centres, managed by the
assess the utility of the NAMC as organising committee of the
a platform for securing Games under IOC regulations.
appropriate media reporting of
local cultures during Games time. 2. Identify needs of local cultural
Pilot work conducted by Dr. groups to secure appropriate
Garcia and Dr. Miah at the media representation during
Sydney and Salt Lake City Games time.
Olympics suggests that a broad
range of media utilise the 3. Understand how journalists
NAMCs, but that the political and local promoters make
positioning of these centres sense of the NAMC and how
remains unclear. they could utilise it better.

García and Miah, 2004: British Academy project 2

Methodology (including the distribution of

information stands and the use of
The project methodologies were facilities). Addressing objective 1
fundamentally qualitative, also entailed the review of
consisting of the following, materials about the Main Press
Centre. This provided a basis to
- 24 structured and semi- compare both centres and assess
structured interviews with the level of cultural information
key NAMC stakeholders, provided to accredited
registered journalists and journalists.
representatives from local
cultural organisations For Objective 2, we conducted
presenting their work during seven semi-structured interviews
the Games; with representatives from
- review and analysis of selected local organisations
relevant documentation about presenting cultural activities
the NAMC and cultural during Games time. We did not
programming during the target organisations solely
Games; interested in promoting tourism
- participant observations at the and economic benefit to their
NAMC and selected cultural region, but rather engaged with
activities in Athens and key organisations and individuals
Olympic venues. trying to present local cultural
and artistic vibrancy.
In addressing Objective 1, we
conducted four structured Finally, Objective 3 entailed
interviews with key NAMC speaking to journalists (both
stake-holders, including the accredited and non-accredited)
Hellenic Ministry of Information and local promoters in an
and the Ministry of Tourism. We unstructured interview setting
also conducted a review and within the NAMC. We discussed
analysis of key documents their priorities, concerns, and
offering information about the perceptions of the value given to
number and nature of NAMCs in the media coverage of
organisations represented at the the Olympic Games.
NAMC, the list of registered
journalists, and a representative Research Programme
sample of promotional material
about local cultural activity Funds were required to gather
provided in the Centre. primary data during the 2004
Olympic Games period in
We also recorded and analysed Athens. NAMCs are open to
observations of the Centre’s journalists only during the
structure and operations Olympic fortnight, which made it

García and Miah, 2004: British Academy project 3

fundamental to conduct research journalists representing not only

during this time. Our full mainstream media (as is the case
participation during these weeks in the accredited centres) but also
was necessary to achieve smaller outlets such as specialist
Objectives 2 and 3 and a culture and trade magazines and
preceding week to work towards community radio stations. The
achieving Objective 1. majority of registered journalists
represented Greek media but
During the first week, we also, significantly, Chinese media,
identified our key contacts for the the country to host the next
personal interviews, arranged Games in 2008.
times for meetings and gathered
key documentation about the
MPC and the NAMC.

During the second week we

gathered information about the
main cultural promoters within
the NAMC.

During both week 2 and 3,

documentation was gathered on
daily news releases, monitoring
of journalist participation, and The NAMC provided daily
promotion of other cultural briefings about the political,
activities. social and cultural issues
surrounding the Games, while
Also during these final two the accredited centres focused on
weeks, the remaining interviews the sporting competitions and
were undertaken, and we IOC related matters exclusively.
dedicated time to engage with
local groups at cultural events It was located in the centre of
(Objective 2 and 3). Athens to ensure maximum
representation of daily city-life
stories. This allowed easy access
Main findings to the main cultural and symbolic
events including the torch relay
1. Operational structure and and torch lighting in the
function of the NAMC and how Parthenon, the main street-based
it compares with accredited cultural programming and some
Olympic media centres sporting events such as the road
cycling and the marathon. The
The NAMC was an active centre
accredited centres were at the
of information for the media,
Olympic Park, the base of most
attracting a wide diversity of

García and Miah, 2004: British Academy project 4

competition venues, 20miles from because the management team

the centre. was easily accessible to public
agencies and related
The NAMC offered a relaxing organisations compared with the
and comfortable environment strict regulations of the Olympic
compared with the accredited organising committee.
centres. It made a point of
offering good quality food and The NAMC provided a venue for
refreshments, representative of high profile presentations that
Greek gastronomy; it showcased were not featured in the
stands sponsored by the main accredited centres, which tend to
Greek public agencies be consumed by news concerning
representing tourism, heritage, the sporting competitions.
the arts and offering related
services to journalists; it offered These included:
daily afternoon and evening • Presentation of the Olympic
functions providing a taste of Truce initiative, attended by
Greek cultural heritage. the Greek and UK PMs, Royal
family of Spain, etc.
• Presentation of Greek major
projects: European Capital of
Culture’06, bid to host the
Universal Expo 2008
• Other world major events:
Melbourne Commonwealth

On the down side, the media

value of the cultural stories was
not always optimal. Despite its
The NAMC had no official link to diversity, information about its
the accredited centres but purpose was not always made
ensured representation of the clear to journalists.
Olympic organising committee in
all non-sporting related issues Furthermore, the amount of local
such as cultural, educational and guests linked to special
environmental matters. presentations sometimes
outnumbered that of journalists.
2. Representing local cultures As a result, some events seemed
and other relevant international to act more as private parties than
cultural issues media opportunities. Also, the
range of activities presented was
Our interviewees insisted that the unbalanced.
NAMC provided a good platform
to present their work. This is

García and Miah, 2004: British Academy project 5

The NAMC was open to portrayed the stories of local

contributions from all sorts of cultural groups including ethnic
cultural groups, but the majority minorities and marginal
of presentations addressed the communities.
interests of key Greek public
agencies in terms of tourism and Recommendations
business attraction rather than
the Greek artistic community and Future hosts of the Olympic
wider population. This was Games, including the candidates
evident in the tone of many for the 2012 Games, will benefit
cultural presentations, where from supporting the work of
traditional forms predominated future NAMCs.
over contemporary expressions.
These centres provide a dynamic
3. How did journalists make setting and can deal with queries
sense of the place and utilise it in a more flexible way than the
official accredited centres. Most
Journalists were pleased with the importantly, they offer
setting and the diversity of alternative stories that allow a
activities on offer. However, there greater understanding of the
was a lack of understanding of Olympic host and can ensure a
the purpose of the NAMC and fairer representation of local
how it differed from the communities.
accredited centres. Mainstream
journalists using the NAMC
Outcomes so far
because of its convenient location
often complained about the lack
The researchers are acting as
of sporting information (a
advisors to the London 2012 Bid
function is did not intend to
and have conducted informal
serve). Despite these complaints,
meetings with the UK Secretary
300 out of the 15,000 accredited
of State for Culture, Media and
journalists ended using the
NAMC as their main base.
This project has received
Eight out of ten journalists
extensive media coverage in the
representing alternative and
weeks following the end of the
specialist media were interested
in the stories on offer at the
NAMC rather than sporting
Beatriz García will be speaking at
stories. Their angle was more
the Annual Meeting of the UK
diverse and inclusive than that of
National Olympic Academy on
the mainstream Olympic media.
the initial findings of the project.
They covered the political and
social issues surrounding the
Games hosting process and

García and Miah, 2004: British Academy project 6


Very special thanks to Virginia &

Tassos who hosted us in Athens for
the duration of this project.

Thanks to Kris Krug from Spark-

Online and Anthony Edgar, IOC
media operations manager, for
facilitating our registration at the
NAMC and wider access to Olympic
media information.

Also thanks to the NAMC- based

Hellenic International Press Officers
who generously offered their insight
and recommendations.

Finally, thank you to the cultural

team at the Athens Olympic
Organising Committee and staff at
the Hellenic Culture Organisation
for the amount of time and resources
offered to allow us gain a full
understanding of the wealth of
cultural activity taking place in the
lead to, during and after the Games.

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