"We are GREAT Britain": British newspaper narratives during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle




  • John Vincent
  • John S. Hill
  • Andrew Billings
  • John Harris
  • C. Dwayne Massey

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-923
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number8
Early online date9 Feb 2017
StatePublished - Dec 2018


British newspaper narratives were examined during the 2012 London Olympic Games to discern how the British press promoted specific “narratives of the nation.” For the London-based British press, the home Olympics became the ideal medium not only to sell newspapers and electronic format subscriptions, but also to (re)present their views on Britain and what it stood for. Using a qualitative textual analysis methodology, this study drew on Anderson’s theory of the “imagined community” and Edmunds and Turner’s concepts of benign and malign nationalism to provide insights about how Britishness was framed. For a country struggling to shake off the economic recession, early narratives about the Games were imbued with concerns about the escalating costs of hosting the Games and fears of terrorism. However, the critical early tone of British newspaper narratives was supplanted with uplifting, inspirational stories about the unprecedented success of Team GB athletes. This provided British journalists with an opportunity to reengineer Britishness to reinforce some traditional values and inject some new inclusive ones. Although at times, complex, contested and contradictory, the narratives generally linked the internationalism of the Olympics with a progressive, benign version of Britishness that emphasized inclusion, tolerance, and creativity and, at least temporarily, redefined how Britain regarded itself and was viewed.


  • newspaper narratives, London, 2012 Olympics

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