The isles of wonder—a new Jerusalem? British newspaper narratives about the opening ceremony of the XXXth Olympiad

John Vincent, John Harris, Edward (Ted) Kian, Andrew Billings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Isles of Wonder, the 2012 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, was viewed by a record global audience either live or
through a range of electronic, social, and print media. British newspaper discourses provided reflection of the mega-sporting event as a ‘second-order’ construction, which gave readers an opportunity to reflexively decide what Britishness had come to represent. Theoretical insights about British identity were drawn from Anderson’s (1983) concept of the nation as an ‘imagined community’, Tajfel and Turner’s (1986) social identity theory, and Edmunds and Turner’s (2001) juxtaposition of benign and malign nationalism. Our qualitative textual analysis revealed that although at times complex, contested, and contradictory, the narratives generally linked the internationalism of the Olympics with a progressive, benign version of Britishness that was still ‘great’. Underpinned by the aspirational New Jerusalem theme, the narratives generally acclaimed the Isles of Wonder as Britain’s first gold medal of the Games.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1275-1296
Number of pages22
JournalSport in Society
Issue number7
Early online date4 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019



  • British newspapers
  • London 2012
  • national identity
  • textual analysis

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