International MeFites: what are the Olympics like in your country?
August 6, 2016 10:19 PM   Subscribe

The Olympic Games is large: it contains multitudes. From living in the UK and US, I'm aware of how differently it's presented: the BBC is a little bit nationalistic but mostly treats it as a glorious global sporting carnival; NBC makes it a soft-focus rah-rah-USA reality show with lots of commercials. But how does it come across in other countries?

Which sports on your home nation's broadcast get the most attention, and which ones get mostly ignored? How much attention is paid to other countries' competitors? How nationalistic does it get, and how much does that relate to the prospect of winning medals?
posted by holgate to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In Canada it is delivered with a little bit of rah-rah for Canadian multiculturalism, both in celebrating it as a multicultural event, and, Just as you would guess, the Team reflects the diversity and multiculturalism of Canada. The athletes not only come from all across Canada but they embrace many different ethnicities.

Canadian Olympic Team embraces Canada’s multiculturalism through sport.

Etc. Canada luvs all the countries and all the countries luv Canada! (Twee spelling deliberate. If your school textbooks were printed in 1982 or later you were given to believe that this was pretty much the official UN take on international affairs for us.)

Little bit of extra emphasis and excitement on hockey during winter Olympics.

Having lived in the US for a few years I think we pay more attention to the soccerfootball than the US does. People do follow it here even though we're not very good at it. You can go to a bar and catch any footie of importance elsewhere; not the case in the US. Soccer is the #1 kids' sport here. We pay more attention, I think, to what we actually do -- skate, kick a ball around a field, row boats, go tobogganing ("luge"), skiing, curling (yeah eh), tennis, swimming. I think we are still a tad embarrassed about Ben Johnson; that is still in the national consciousness, filed under "cringe."
posted by kmennie at 11:26 PM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hong Kong is not a country, but our team's supporters are supportive! Our TV and especially newspaper coverage (we have a very vibrant newspaper culture with...10? dailies, as well as all the online news outlets) focuses on sports we excel in - especially badminton and table tennis. There is also a lot of coverage of our Chinese-speaking neighbours in China and Taiwan (no Macau team this year!).

London 2012 was easier/cheaper for Hong Kongers to attend than Rio 2016, though, and many Hong Kongers have been to or lived in the UK, so this year's fans are probably more limited in number. We sent well under 100 athletes!

I didn't get to watch our TV covrage live this year because I'm abroad, but this morning's coverage of the Opening Ceremony on website of the Chinese-language Apple Daily, a popular online and offline news portal, had two brief videos (each under two minutes) - one comparing our flagbearer, a fencer, to Gisele's catwalk (!), and the other focused on the outfits and spectacle itself, as well as online reactions to the oily Tongan flagbearer and anti-Olympics protests. Some mockery was made of the Chinese team's outfits, which were compared to a pizza! For more detailed coverage you need to drill down to the sports section, where there are a few brief articles on HK and international athletes, perhaps translated from wire reports?

The South China Morning Post, recently purchased by Jack Ma, one of China's wealthiest people and the city's English paper of record, I guess, has a dedicated Rio 2016 section and did a liveblog of the opening ceremony. Much of the coverage looks more international, I guess, especially covering athletes who are from countries that have a larger population of immigrants and expats here. There are articles on the games as a whole as well as features on Chinese and HK athletes, including this article on how our athletes seek to meet their idols in the Olympic Village - quite a Hong Kong story.

Sporting culture here is quite stratified - we don't have enough public places for people to do sport, and since colonial times it's been quite class divided. Our athletes often train overseas. Like everywhere, working class people have limited chances to really train and students see less and less time dedicated to sport and fitness than exam preparation.

So overall, a more muted picture, perhaps - and one that's probably a lot less overtly patriotic than our Chinese neighbours to the north.
posted by mdonley at 12:01 AM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The swimming events are huge in Australia, for obvious reasons. The coverage in general is nationalistic and also like we're all related and so the athletes are all 'Our [name]'. But then, given the less than 6 degrees of separation with everyone if you grew up here, chances are you are somewhat connected. (Or maybe that's my perspective growing up in an area that produced quite a few gold medalists whereas I am not remotely athletic so it was all a bit bizarre.)

i always thought we focussed in the winners and so did everyone else so it was quite funny watching the Athens games in the UK and realising that of course they were going to interview their swimmers (however they placed) over the top 3 which meant that I didn't get to see the Aussies at all.

Australians don't go for overt patriotism (the pledge of allegience beyond freaks me out) and so generally look a bit awkward during the anthem - more likely to smile for the folks back home than gazing patriotically (word?) at the flag.
posted by kitten magic at 12:05 AM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: New Zealand: focus tends to be local. But there's also a lot of interest in the glamour events - the athletics and swimming, maybe gymnastics. Sports like weightlifting, martial arts, volleyball, handball, shooting don't receive much coverage at all.

So rowing, sailing equestrian and cycling tend to receive a lot of coverage. Beatrice Faumuina could win the women's shot put again, so there will be a lot of focus on her. We should do well in two of the new sports - rugby sevens and golf (Lydia Ko is the women's world number one).

Like anywhere else, coverage will focus on our athletes even if they're finishing 8th in a heat, but there are a lot of events which won't feature NZ athletes, and our media will certainly focus on the big names, the Bolts, Farahs and Phelps. Pretty similar to English coverage, in my experience.

At some point someone will calculate a per capita medals table that "proves" that NZ is actually the best sporting country in the world based on population.
posted by Pink Frost at 4:14 AM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Australian also has a history of irreverent supplementary Olympics coverage - see The Dream with Roy and HG, and The Games.
posted by zamboni at 7:16 AM on August 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Portugal is kind of hard now because a few events are now on pay tv, but public TV usually does a decent job of finding people good enough at the sports they're commentating. As the odds of medals are generally low, they're happy when our athletes win, but when they lose it it's no big deal. Except athletics, where they have one guy that is a walking encyclopedia. Since there's so much dead time, he often brings up some anecdote from a 1989 Stuttgart meeting, and complain when a field final is cut live to show a long-distance track event.

In general terms, other than popular sports, they usually pick stuff we have an athlete in - right now they're broadcasting Judo (2 athletes today).
posted by lmfsilva at 7:42 AM on August 7, 2016

Adding to kmennie's observations on Canada: in Quebec at any rate, there's always some stuff around any summer Olympics looking back at the Montreal games in 1976. I saw a bit of the gymnastics last night on a friend's TV and they included an interview with Nadia Comaneci who scored four 10s in Montreal that year.
posted by zadcat at 8:34 AM on August 7, 2016

Best answer: Austrian coverage (on the national public broadcaster) acknowledges that three medals, total, at the summer olympics would be exceeding expectations. Events in which Austrians are participating are shown, and Austrian athletes are presented, but there's no expectation coming from the announcers that the Austrian athletes are going to medal, and a general feel of, "let's just sit back and enjoy the show."

Sports that aren't likely to be familiar will have rules/scoring explained right at the beginning and, so far, the choice of sports has been a pretty wide variety.
posted by frimble at 8:50 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Australian coverage is biased not just towards Australian athletes (which I think most countries do) but towards sports in which Australians are competing, preferably with a chance of doing well. The clearest manifestation of this is that we basically ignore the Winter Olympics entirely until we get a medal. I have a moderate interest in sport, and could easily tell you where all the Summer Games have been held in the last 30 years, but could only tell you the most recent Winter host - it's just not part of popular consciousness.
To psychoanalyse an entire country as to the reason for this - Australia as a nation has always been pretty insecure re its place in the world, and tend to get overexcited about anything we can play with (and beat) the big guys at. We spend very large amounts of public money on summer Olympic sport, and as a result are way higher on the medal tally than our population would predict - which in turn is seen as a measure of our national worth. And we only want to talk about the bits we're good at.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 1:26 PM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I just checked the front page coverage of the website of one of the Netherland's "quality newspapers" ( There are five items in a "focus box". 1: Cyclist van der Breggen grabs first gold medal for the Netherlands (this is the main item with a big picture). 2: End of the era of the glorious golden girls (about the Dutch women's swimming team that did not win a medal yesterday). 3: Haase fails in first round too. 4: Hockey women easily win from Spain. 5: Russia banned from Paralympics. This is the front page of the website itself, not the sport section. If you click through to the Rio category, you still see almost only news about Dutch people.
posted by blub at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2016

I'm an American, but living in Denmark. And I just flew to Sweden today where I'll spend the next two weeks. Unfortunately my understanding of the language (Danish, but even more so Swedish) is rudimentary enough that I can't say much about *how* things are presented. Just that so far, in both countries, I've gotten to watch their bike riders do quite well.

And I know Denmark is into handball, which is a big change for me from the US - which hasn't even qualified a team for handball since 1996. And the Swedish tv was just showing it too, so there's that.
posted by nat at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2016

Best answer: As for kinds of sports that are popular here in the Netherlands as opposed to elsewhere: In a recent thread about gymnastics here on Metafilter someone said that women's gymnastics is more popular than men's gymnastics and that people wouldn't be able to name a male gymnast. That surprised me, because in my country, that's exactly the other way around. Even people who aren't into sports will probably know Epke Zonderland's name. It's not that women's gymnastics isn't covered, but I think Epke is a household name here.
posted by blub at 4:15 PM on August 7, 2016

The medal tally in the top right of the Sydney Morning Herald is a good example of how Australia likes to focus on what *we* win. We're second in gold, pffft that we're 4th in total medals (on that snapshot anyway).
posted by kitten magic at 11:03 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Canada traditionally we've always been able to watch both the Canadian and American coverage, since We receive the major Anerican networks on cable TV (and over the air). Also, the English language and French language broadcasts will focus on different sports. There is a lot more emphasis on showing a lot of competition as opposed to the American packaging of a storyline. For instance, coverage for the Sydney Olympics (held before everyone was streaming everything and with a major time difference) went overnight with hours of live events broken up by news. The US cnetwork overage would package things up later for prime time and pretend the outcome was still in question for an event held many hours earlier.

I agree that the Winter games are treated equally, if not as more important than the summer games. All the hockey games are broadcast for the winter games. We watched the Women's soccer final from London in a pub with a lot of very knowledgable soccer fans. My work was live streaming the soccer games in the break room (rather than having everyone trying to stream covertly at their work station). That was fun. Hockey at the winter games gets that sort of treatment, too.

I stream everything these days so it's possible to watch constant coverage either online or via my phone. Coverage is provided by CBC, so there aren't additional viewing charges. In general I'd say coverage includes top three plus Canadians.
posted by TORunner at 12:23 AM on August 8, 2016

The medal tally in the top right of the Sydney Morning Herald is a good example of how Australia likes to focus on what *we* win. We're second in gold, pffft that we're 4th in total medals (on that snapshot anyway).

But third on a per capita basis! (As I mentioned above, New Zealand's favourite medal table). Note that if the sole NZ medalist so far had won gold instead of silver, NZ would currently be second on this table. Rather than 20th equal, as we actually are.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:10 AM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Coverage in Japan is hyper-focused on Japanese athletes but it is like that for all the sports all the time so you're used to it and actually get some longer term narrative out of it as well. They may not broadcast actual games for minor sports outside of the olympics but they will give you highlights and let you know that Japanese athlete won a meet/tournament in a non-olympic year, and there are always soft profiles on them and they'll show up on variety shows as well. So when the olympics come by you will recognize the athletes from all the coverage they've already gotten and feel more of a connection to them. During the olympics it will be hard to find coverage that doesn't have a Japanese connection to it. It was living in Japan during the 2004 olympics that put me off from watching them since (it was a small step for me to go from "why am I watching a sport I don't care about because some Japanese athlete is in it?" to "why am I watching a sport I don't care about because it is during the olympics?").

This is different from how it is here in Canada where unless you are in a big sport you will be an unknown in between olympic games and then when it turns out you are a medal hopeful it comes as somewhat of a surprise to most people and then they tend to disappear just as suddenly. Like I think a couple of years ago our flag bearer was a kayaker who was supposed to be a medal threat. Most people had no idea who he was because we don't watch kayaking on TV outside of the olympics. We are kind of lucky in that we aren't one of the main nations as far as summer olympics goes so our coverage can show both the events that Canadians are participating in as well as the events that Canadians will actually care to watch. We are also lucky because we get access to the American networks so can watch their coverage as well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:15 PM on August 8, 2016

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