Newspaper Coverage of Women's Sports during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games: Belgium, Denmark, France, and Italy

Article excerpt

In general, women are well represented among sport participants and sport audiences but not in the media. Data show that women's sport is greatly underreported and trivialized in newspapers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to measure press coverage during the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in the largest circulating Belgian, Danish, French, and Italian daily newspapers by: (a) number of articles, (b) size, (c) page placement, (d) accompanying photographs, and (e) photograph size. For each sport covered, the athletes' nationality and the gender were recorded. Compared to the 1996 Atlanta Games, there was an increase of 326 female athletes (+4%), and women competed in 25 sports and 132 events (44%) of the total 300 events. Although only 29.3% of the articles and 38% of photos were on women's sports, the newspaper coverage was similar to the distribution of participating athletes and events. No significant gender differences were found with respect to article size, page placement, accompanying photographs, or photograph size. The most covered sport was track and field, independent of national achievement. Other sports received different coverage in relation to national expectations, achievement, and participation. Inconclusion, there was a trend to overcome gender inequities in media coverage during the Olympic Games, which may be due to the International Olympic Committee's actions to promote increased participation of women in sport activities and to publicize their achievements. Moreover, during the Olympic Games, a nationalistic fervor might affect the equality of gender coverage.

Key words: gender sport coverage, Olympics


Because sport has been at the forefront of communication technologies, considerable attention has been paid to the relationship of sport, media, and gender in contemporary culture (Tomlinson, 2002). While the sport-media complex is a "globalized" and "globalizing" phenomenon, Law, Harwey, and Kemp (2002) showed that its structure is quite uneven and reasonably decentralized. Thus, to grasp important features of the gender mainstreaming in the global-local sport-media complex, it is necessary to analyze cross-cultural and cross-temporal comparisons.

The overwhelming media coverage of men's sport creates, reflects, and refracts the hegemonic masculinity, especially in everyday sport reporting (Daddario, 1994; Donaldson, 1993; Pedersen, 2002). Usually, media tend to undermine and trivialize women's accomplishments and reinforce the idea that sports pertain to men. In fact, data show that women's sport is greatly underreported in newspapers (Bishop, 2003; Crossman, Hyslop, & Gutrie, 1994; Duncan, Messner, Williams, & Jensen, 1991; Jefferson Lenskyj, 1998; Kane & Parks, 1992; Lee, 1992; Lumpkin & Williams, 1991; Messner, Duncan, & Cooky, 2003; Pedersen, 2002; Pirinen, 1995; Vincent, Imwold, Masemann, &Johnson, 2002) and television (Alexander, 1994a, 1994b; Duncan & Hasbrook, 1988; Duncan, Messner, Williams, & Jensen, 1990; Duncan, Messner, Williams, & Jensen, 1994; Messner, Duncan, & Jensen, 1993). The ideology of hegemonic masculinity powerfully influenced the "invisibility" of female athletes so that they rarely enter the national or global marketplaces as role models in sport. Analyzing women's sport in coverage Sport Illustrated over 16 years (1980-96), Bishop (2003) showed that the mass media do not reflect the growing popularity of women's sport, and they tend to "symbolically annihilate" the female athletes. The amount of media coverage is crucial for visibility of the female athlete, but it doesn't necessarily represent women's achievement in sports equally, especially when nontask relevant commentaries are made (Bernstein, 2002). When women's sports are covered, textual analyses of the commentaries show that the media use several techniques to subordinate the female athletes. Wensing & Bruce (2003) identified five "rules" that frame female athletes into the culturally prescribed gender characteristics: (a) gender marking, when an event is referred as a woman's event (i. …