Sports mega-events: Mass media and symbolic contestation

Horne, John David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4389-8204 (2017) Sports mega-events: Mass media and symbolic contestation. In: Sport, Media and Mega-Events. Taylor and Francis, United Kingdom, pp. 19-32. ISBN 9781138930391

[thumbnail of Author Accepted Manuscript]
PDF (Author Accepted Manuscript) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Official URL:


[tx]New developments in the technologies of mass communication, especially the development of satellite television, have created the basis for global audiences for sports mega-events. The expansion of mega-events has been facilitated by the formation of a sport–media–business alliance that transformed professional sport generally in the late twentieth century. Through the idea of packaging (via the tri-partite model of sponsorship rights, exclusive broadcasting rights and merchandising, sponsors of the Olympics and the two biggest international football events – the FIFA Men’s Football World Cup and the UEFA Men’s Football Championship, or Euro) have been attracted by the vast global audience exposure that sporting mega-events achieve. Interest in hosting sports mega-events has proliferated because they have become seen as valuable promotional opportunities for nations, cities and regions – the aim being to generate increased tourism, stimulate inward investment and promote both the host venues and the nation of which they are a part to the wider world as well as internally. Much research has since documented and theorized the transformation of sports’ most important tournaments from physical contests and local festivals into global mediated spectacles (for example see Gruneau and Horne, 2016; Horne and Manzenreiter, 2006; Horne and Whannel, 2012; Roche, 2000; Rojek, 2013).
In this context, it is valuable to ask: What are the possibilities and scope for contestation and resistance to dominant media messages about sports mega-events? How is symbolic contestation played out? What different media are used? What alternative readings (“decodings”) of media content are possible? It is beyond the scope of this chapter to answer these questions in detail, but it is possible to indicate why such questions are important and some of the ways in which they might be explored. The chapter will suggest that the work of Stan Cohen and Stuart Hall, two of the most influential British postwar social scientists, have contributed different ways of understanding the role of the media in constructing social reality. They provide insights into the media’s role in both over- reacting to as well as exaggerating (amplifying) social concerns or social issues and also, at times, under-reacting and downplaying (denying) others (Cohen, 2001, 2002; Critcher, 2003; Hall et al., 1978).
This chapter will first examine the nature of contestation and specifically symbolic contestation with respect to sports mega-events. Second, it will look at the mediated social construction of sports mega- events. Third, it will consider what a decoding of sports mega-events might entail, utilizing the ideas of Stuart Hall and Stan Cohen. Fourth and finally, it will examine some examples of symbolic contestation at recent sports mega-events and indicate where further research and study of symbolic contestation could develop our understanding of the mediatization of sports mega-events.

Repository Staff Only: item control page