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This article examines the symbolic content of large-scale sporting events as expressed in the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games of 1998 (Nagano, Japan) and 2002 (Salt Lake City, USA). Such internationally broadcast events are claimed widely to contribute to the transformation of a city's or a region's image, and to potential concomitant—and predominantly economic—benefits. Drawing upon the live coverage of these events by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the article shows how the opening ceremonies balance the local, regional, national, and international emphases in the presentation of the Olympics and the host city/nation. Nagano 1998 proritized the themes of peace and harmony, mixing ancient Japanese cultural elements with elements of an international populism. Salt Lake City 2002 was the first Olympic Games to be held after the attacks on US targets of September 11, 2001. The security was unprecedentedly tight, and the ceremony showed how the claimed universalism of the Olympics can be appropriated into a particular nationalist cause and merged with a set of national values (including the rhetoric of hard work, ambition, and the chasing of a dream). The Nagano and Salt Lake City cases confirm the process whereby the Olympic spectacle and its accompanying values are commonly and recurrently reworked in the interests of the host nation. The article concludes by locating the ceremonies as forms of consumer tourism, but questions the long-term impact of such events in worldwide terms, when they are framed for and are most meaningful to their more immediate and local constituencies.
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Keywords: Destination image; International broadcast; Opening ceremonies; Symbolic content; Winter Olympics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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