In the span of four years from 2018 to 2022, three consecutive Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in East Asia – namely PyeongChang 2018 in South Korea, Tokyo 2020 in Japan and Beijing 2022 in China. Given this geographic concentration of global multi-sports mega-events in the Far East, Horne and Whannel (2016) referred to this period as the ‘East Asian era’ of the Olympic Games. The ‘East Asian era’ alludes to an important question about whether it epitomizes a shift in geopolitical and economic power from the West to the East or the further incorporation of the Far East into the global order characterised by Western cultural hegemony (Lee, 2016).
Incidentally, it emerged against the backdrop of dissenting voices of protest and critics in Western society that opposed the hosting of the Games and, in turn, resulted in withdrawals of candidacies as seen in the cases of Sweden, Germany and Norway for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games (Gruneau & Horne, 2016). In an attempt to overcome the crisis of its legitimacy, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) initiated a set of reform policies called Olympic Agenda 2020 in 2014. The initiative aimed at increasing the IOC’s level of sustainability and social responsibility by, for instance, reducing the costs of bidding, promoting the use of existing and demountable venues and allowing events to be held outside the host city or even host country (MacAloon, 2016).
In early 2021 ahead of the opening of the postponed Tokyo 2020, additional reform policies called Olympic Agenda 2020+5 were adopted to further extend the reform effort in line with the original aspirations. As such, the 2018-2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games in East Asia coincided – and perhaps not so coincidentally – with this transformative process of Agenda 2020 (and +5) and therefore served as its testing ground. Consequently, theoretical and empirical inquiries into the ‘East Asian era’ are expected to offer much needed insight into the contested terrains and future shaping of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the subsequent Games ‘going back to the West’ in 2024 (Paris), 2026 (Milano Cortina) and 2028 (Los Angeles).
This demands us as scholars in the fields of communication and sport to closely attend to the emerging discourses of the difference in representation of cultural identities with respect to gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, religion and (dis)ability.
In reflecting on ‘Together’ as the fourth word added to the modernist imagination of the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, it is timely to investigate how the emerging narratives of the 2018-2022 Games and their legacies have been framed, contested and articulated. One of the most frequently debated aspects of the event revolves around both positive and negative impacts of the Games on the host cities and nations. During the ‘East Asian era’, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has altered the public perception of costs and benefits for hosting the Games with the benefits – such as inbound tourism, nation branding and celebration of medal-winning performances of their own national athletes in public – being largely undermined.
While Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 have often been upheld as models of successful delivery of the Games in the midst of the pandemic due to relatively low numbers of event-related cases of infection and fatality, we have yet to gain a clear and complete picture of how the televised images and sounds of empty facilities under the governments’ strict control and restrictions have temporarily or permanently changed the ways in which the Games were hosted, produced, communicated, represented and consumed. This demands us as scholars in the fields of communication and sport to closely attend to the emerging discourses of the difference in representation of cultural identities with respect to gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, religion and (dis)ability. Also, there is a need to understand how the values of the Games may have been re-evaluated by organisers, athletes, sponsors, journalists, volunteers and consumers during the ‘East Asian era’.
Another important aspect for this special issue, which has rarely been discussed previously in the field, is the changing dynamics of relations among the nations within East Asia intra-regionally as well as between East Asia and the rest of the world. As regional economic powerhouses, China, Japan and South Korea have developed complex relationships through centuries of trade, conflict and cooperation, and it is imperative to explore how the regional tensions, rivalries and solidarities were played out through, for instance, inter-Korean cooperation during PyeongChang 2018 and the Western-led diplomatic boycott over human rights and Russia-Ukraine war during Beijing 2022. The mutual influences and contestations in cultural exchanges between East Asia and the rest of the world have been perhaps most vividly manifested in the controversies surrounding ethnically diverse athletes such as Naomi Osaka and Eileen Gu. By collecting contributions focusing on the 2018-2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the special issue therefore aims to critically analyse the current state of play in the formation of regional power, solidarity and rivalry within East Asia and offer its implications for a broader understanding of the continuity and changes to the economic, political, social, cultural and ecological dimensions of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement.
In this special issue of Communication & Sport, we welcome theoretical and empirical contributions that broadly address the overarching theme of “Mediating the East Asian Era of the Olympic and Paralympic Games” or specially focus on one or more of the events from the 2018, 2020 and/or 2022 Games. Possible areas and topics for this special issue include, but are not limited to:
- Media narratives and counter-narratives about the Olympic and Paralympic legacies
- Critiques of the process, representation or politics in bidding or hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games
- Sustainability, ecological impacts and social responsibilities
- The impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the politics, mediation and communication
- Narratives of globalism, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, glocalism, regionalism or nationalism
- Narratives of gender, sexuality, citizenship, race/ethnicity and (dis)ability
- The rhetoric and reality of the Olympic Agenda 2020 (and +5)
- Networks and knowledge production of event professionals
- Media production and consumption
- Commercialism, promotion, sponsorship and advertising
- The alternative, digital and social media
- East Asian ‘colonial modernity’ (Lee & Cho, 2012) and postcolonialism
- East Asian solidarity and rivalry
- Comparative analysis of events held across different times in the same nation (e.g., Tokyo 1964 vs. Tokyo 2020) or different nations (e.g., PyeongChang 2018 vs. Beijing 2022), using at least one event from the 2018-2022 Games
- Representations of sport celebrities and fandom
Special issue editors
- Koji Kobayashi, Otaru University of Commerce, Japan / Lincoln University, New Zealand
- John Horne, Independent Scholar, Edinburgh, United Kingdom /Waseda University, Japan
- Younghan Cho, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea
- Jung Woo Lee, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Contact email address
Manuscript submission deadline
December 1, 2022
Manuscripts for this special issue should be submitted beginning June 1st, 2022, and no later than December 1st, 2022, at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/commsport to facilitate full consideration. In the submission process, authors should mention in their cover letter that the submission is for the “Mediating the East Asian Era” special issue of Communication & Sport and choose “Mediating the East Asian Era Special Issue” as the “Manuscript Type”. Manuscripts should follow the Manuscript Submission Guidelines at https://journals.sagepub.com/home/com. All manuscripts will be subject to peer review under the supervision of the Special Issue Editors and Editor-in-Chief. Expressions of interest, abstracts for consideration, and questions may be directed to the Special Issue Editors: Koji Kobayashi, John Horne, Younghan Cho, and Jung Woo Lee via the email (email@example.com).