The entire world watched the 2008 Olympics.
Newspapers across the globe, across regions and religions, across economic divides and cultural differences, all decided this was an event they had to cover.
The brilliantly conceived and staged opening ceremony attracted ‘gee-whiz’ front-page coverage around the world. To a surprising degree, the press ignored the attending heads of state and even in most instances the parade of their own athletes—to focus on the new Chinese superpower flexing its muscles with choreographed musicians, lights and fireworks.
Overall, the world's press gave China predominantly favorable coverage: Prior to the Olympics, there was much speculation that the media would turn the games into an international anti-China campaign—after all there had been extensive coverage of the protests against China’s human rights record during the global torch relay and of the rioting in Tibet.
But that all essentially disappeared off the front pages of global newspapers.
Over the course of the first week, the newspapers' front pages featured the athletes, especially those who won medals—and especially the swimmers and the gymnasts. The events were covered as spectacle, not as politics games. Coverage was upbeat, positive—and ethnocentric.
However, the newspapers from one region to another often varied in their coverage —sometimes considerably.
And China's coverage of itself was often the most distinctive.
See below for more details.
Prominence of the Coverage
The 2008 Olympics received extensive and prominent coverage during the first week. The vast majority of newspapers offered at least one front page story daily, positioned those stories prominently high, and allocated substantial space to them. China offered the most extensive and prominent coverage, while Africa and the Arabic world offered the least.
Details on the prominence of coverage and how different regions differed
Focus of the Coverage
The first week of the 2008 Olympics coverage focused on the games, the opening ceremonies and the athletes. Politics, security and other related issues were mostly ignored. The sports that received the most coverage during that week were: Swimming, Gymnastics, Weightlifting and Basketball. But different regions differed considerably in what sports they highlighted.
The most highlighted sports in every region of the globe
Portrayal of Athletes
The coverage focused predominantly on male athletes, offering twice as many male-only images than female-only images. In addition, the images mostly showed athletes performing or winning. Few images showed them losing. Different regions, however, differed dramatically in the portrayal of athletes.
Which regions had the highest proportion of male-only to female-only images?
Coverage of China
Overall, the 2008 Olympics received mostly positive or neutral coverage, and the coverage of China was also mostly positive or neutral overall, with only two regions offering any substantial number of negative stories.
Which regions were the most critical of China?
Media and Ethnocentricity
The front page newspaper coverage of the Olympics was primarily ethnocentric, with newspapers focusing mostly on stories related to their own countries or peoples. The level of ethnocentricity varied considerably across regions. China, Latin America and the EU-US offered the most ethnocentric coverage.
The regions offering the least ethnocentric coverage