The Olympics and National Unity

Once every four years, the world is brought together simultaneously to witness the same common event: The Olympics, an international competition in which thousands of athletes from around the globe compete in a wide array of sporting events. The first Olympic games that I can remember watching was eight years ago in the 2004 summer Olympics hosted in Athens, Greece. As a twelve year old boy, not exactly engaged with my nation, nonetheless our world, I really didn’t get what the fuss was about. The ceremonies, the fireworks, the huge crowds, what was the big deal?? Well, much has changed in both my life and the world as a whole since the 2004 Olympics. But, it was not until I moved here to Australia to study abroad and started watching the current summer Olympics that I began to finally realize “what the fuss was about”.

Being an exchange student from the United States, I have witnessed two different sides of national unity when it comes to the Olympic games. It wouldn’t matter if I am in America, Australia, or Nauru (the smallest country participating in the Olympics), I would see the same pride and unity within that nation during these exciting games. It is these national broadcasts that televise your countries proud representatives that brings out the patriotism inside of you. The target audience is different for each individual country, and you can guarantee that these national broadcasts are taking advantage of this 100%. This is one reason why David Morley states, “National broadcasting can thus create a sense of unity – and of corresponding boundaries around the nation; it can link the peripheral to the centre; turn previously exclusive social events into mass experiences.” Which brings me to my next point..

The other night as I was watching some of the Olympics, the USA vs. Australia Women’s Polo match came on. I ended up keeping it on for a good while, finding myself surprisingly caught up in the match. Then, as the game got closer and more intense, I found myself actually going for Australia. Now, seeing as that I am not a die-hard Polo fan, or from Australia, this was very weird for me. Why was I watching this game in the first place and why was I not going for my home-country, America?? Then, it all came very clear to me. The endless amounts of commercials, advertisements, broadcasts, interviews, reporters, that I had been watching since the Olympics started we’re all supporting Australia. This is very obvious, as it is Australian TV, but it was almost as if I had been brainwashed. When you are watching a national broadcast, soaking up every little bit of your countries personal pride, you can’t help but cheer for every goal scored or land executed. The Olympics is one of the few times that you can put your differences aside with your neighbors and unite together as a nation. We are relating and identifying with the entirety of our country, bringing us back to one of David Morley’s main points in that national broadcasting links together the national public sphere into the private lives of its citizens, creating unity.

One world, one goal.


  1. Interesting to read your view on the Olympics as an expat in a country that laps up national green and gold pride like it’s going out of fashion.

    I missed the Olympics, and did so with happy oblivion. What I’ve found in that past, however, is that my patriotism toward my home city/state/country increases when I find myself in a different locale. I moved to Melbourne from Canberra, and for the first few months was our nation’s capital’s biggest advocate! I lived in Copenhagen and felt slightly chuffed at any mention of Princess Mary.

    The difference with your situation is, as you recognised, the ‘brainwashing effect’ that national broadcasting has on maleable minds.

    A Kiwi friend of mine also commented on Australia’s coverage of the Olympics, citing that the events screened had a heavy bias toward (obviously) Australia. She had risen early to watch an event that is hugely popular in New Zealand, but one in which Australians traditionally don’t do well (which event it was escapes me…) – and so she discovered that we just didn’t screen it all. Gold may be glorious, but ignorance is bliss.

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