Martínez-Bello, V.E., Bernabé-Villodre, M.D.M., Cabrera García-Ochoa, Y., Torrent-Trilles, L., Vega-Perona, H.
The representation of athletes during Paralympic and Olympic Games: a Foucauldian analysis of the construction of difference in newspapers
(2021) Disability and Society
Our first aim was to evaluate the representation of athletes in the top newspapers in a continental European country during two editions of the Paralympics and Olympics Games (London 2012 and Rio 2016), by means of quantitative content analysis. The second aim was to critically analyse how athletes are constructed in newspapers using Michel Foucault’s theoretical framework on the construction of subjectivities and difference. The newspapers acting as an instrument, use a set of strategies to reinforce the differential treatment of Paralympic versus Olympic athletes: focusing on the effort, dedication and suffering only of athletes participating in the Paralympic Games, newspapers construct a discourse in which they separate, in an apparently natural way, some (Paralympic) athletes from other (Olympic) athletes. Two decades into the 21st century, even the newspapers of a liberal European democracy are using the same pathological model to cover Paralympic athletes who actively participate in sports competitions.
Points of interest
The newspapers analysed in this study and the way they represent athletes during the Paralympic Games reinforce discrimination. The way newspapers portray athletes participating in Paralympic games are almost exclusively based as victims or courageous people who suffer from personal struggles. By contrast, during the Olympic Games there is no evidence of a personal, social, or political history of suffering. In the newspapers analysed, women athletes participating in the Paralympic Games are underrepresented compared to women and men athletes participating in the Olympic Games. When athletes are shown in the newspapers during the Paralympic Games, they are not treated just as athletes, but also as professionals, doctors, good students, in other words, in order to become an athlete, the Paralympian must also be something else. Our study may provide information necessary for developing teaching strategies targeted at journalists and mass media students about inclusion and gender balance. © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
body; disability; Foucault; newspapers; Paralympic and Olympic Games
adult, article, competition, conceptual framework, content analysis, controlled study, democracy, disabled athlete, England, female, gender, human, human experiment, journalism, male, mass medium, quantitative analysis, teaching, victim