Olympics 2012: U.S., International Sports Media Coverage Differ in Approach to Patriotism

Jessica Ennis - H 2012
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While U.S. journalists focus on calling the action, British and other media at times swap their neutral stance for some cheering.


LONDON - British media, including the typically neutral BBC, have repeatedly cheered on and celebrated the medal-winning performances of the home team at the Summer Olympics here.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, Olympics reporters from other countries have also been openly cheering on their home teams here - something that U.S. sportscasters are typically not allowed to do.

London 2012 organizers say that there are about 21,000 sports journalists at the Summer Games.

While U.S. media, led by NBC, clearly focus on American athletes and their stories, they rarely engage in open rooting. U.S. sports media tend to follow the rule of "no cheering in the press box," the Journal highlighted in mentioning the 2011 case of a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated's web site who lost his job after clapping in the media center for a rookie who won the Daytona 500 race.

In contrast, the media here has at times openly cheered on and celebrated their home athletes' wins.

As reported, the first British gold, won by a rowing duo, and the following win by cycling star Bradley Wiggins were celebrated with such on-air comments as "we stand up, and we salute you." And a BBC Sport representative tweeted: "Huge cheer in the BBC Production office as Team GB clock up their first gold in the women's pair."

The Journal reported that just minutes after British track-and-field star Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon gold medal this weekend, BBC sportscaster Steve Cram told the paper: "We all stood on our feet and applauded…To a man, everybody in the broadcasting positions that we're in—and there's some hardened hacks in here as well…all stood up."

But it described the BBC response as "almost measured" compared with the reaction of members of Mongolian broadcaster TV5 during the judo competition last week. They wore "Mongolia National Team" jackets, and when Mongolian judoka Lkhamdegd Purevjargal won in the women's round of 32, they danced in the aisles of the bleachers, hoisting up their country's flag, the Journalsaid.

Similarly, Emanuele Dotto called the men's singles kayaking final for Italian radio, referring to Italian paddler Daniele Molmenti as "our boy," the Journal said. It added that when a Polish medal contender was on the course, Dotto shouted: "Out! Out!"

And when Japanese judoka Mika Sugimoto earned a win last week, a reporter for a Japanese newspaper responded with a standing ovation. "We like her very much," the reporter told the Journal. "She is very cute."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai