A healthy anniversary? Exploring narratives of health in media coverage of the 1968 and 2008 Olympic Games

Can Bull Med Hist. 2011;28(2):367-82. doi: 10.3138/cbmh.28.2.367.


Researchers are increasingly examining the tenuous relationship between participation in high performance sport and health, and yet IOC-sanctioned and popular discourse around the Olympics remains replete with references to the supposed healthfulness of the Games. Using the 1968 Mexico City Games and the 2008 Bejing Games as bookends, this paper explores national and international media coverage of athletic performance in relation to health and well-being. Three central narratives emerged: (1) pain, perseverance, and the pervasiveness of the "culture of risk" in high performance sport; (2) the performance imperative in the face of the challenges and anxieties of the environment; and (3) the presence and emerging sophistication of sports sciences/scientists in determining health.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance*
  • China
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Mass Media / history*
  • Mexico
  • Narration / history*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sports Medicine / history*