Naturally the first week of the home Olympics was a big deal in Britain, but the extensive coverage it received made it look like nothing else in the world was happening. The situation in Syria was forgotten. The on-going and ever-worsening banking scandals were forgotten. The whole world seemed to be put on hold for over a week.
I conducted a study of the main British newspapers (The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Sun) to find out what their front pages looked like over the last 10 days (see Table 1). The results were shocking. Between Saturday 29th July and Sunday 5th August only one front page of one newspaper concentrated on a story that wasn’t the Olympics. Only three other pages were split between the Olympics and another story. 100% of The Times front pages during this time focussed on the Olympics only. The same is true of The Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun. A fleeting glance of the front pages as you walked through a supermarket gave the impression that the rest of the world was meandering along peacefully, not wanting to disturb the Olympics.
There was even a news story about the Olympics being on the news! It was reported that editors over the weekend had trouble deciding whether to put Bolt or Murray on their front pages after their successes on Sunday. It is debatable whether this story is even considered news, yet alone whether it is more important than events in Syria!
It was not just the tabloids that were overtaken by Olympics fever. The BBC News website did not have a single ‘top story’ which didn’t involve the Olympics for days in a row.
Things do seem to be improving now, with news such as the Liberal Democrat ‘split’ from the Tories and the diplomatic moves in Syria slowly beginning to hit the headlines. But it still leaves many people wondering what happened last week.
Maybe British people on the whole are happy hearing about nothing but the Olympics and concentrating on being patriotic for a fortnight. But even if this is the case it raises other questions. Is world news really that important at all, if for over a week we are happy to live without it? And what important political or other world stories could be slipping through the net as Olympic mania takes over and fills the headlines?
Table One: Front page stories of the main British newspapers (Information from http://www.politicshome.com)
|The Times||The Guardian||Daily Mirror||The Independent||The Daily Telegraph||The Daily Mail||The Sun|
|Sat 28th July||Flying Start to Olympics||Olympic opening ceremony||It’s Maj-Ical (Olympic opening ceremony)||Olympic opening ceremony||Going for Gold – Opening ceremony||Blast Off – Olympics opening ceremony||Let the Games begin – Opening ceremony|
|Sun 29th July||Looking for a British Hero – Olympics||Split – Syria opposition rebels and Bradley Wiggins||The Queen at the Opening ceremony||Olympics||The Queen at the opening ceremony||Day One and Britain has Olympic fever||Olympic fever|
|Mon 30th July||We Will Fill the Empty Seats – Coe||Britain’s First Medal and Empty Seats||Silver for Lizzie Armistead||Lizzie Armistead’s Silver Medal and Empty Seats||The Show is On the Road||Olympic Security Farce – Lost keys||Olympic fever|
|Tues 31st July||Olympics – Gymnastics||China’s record win in pool ‘suspicious’||Kate Cheers on Zara and Tom Twitter Abuse||Split – Everything but the Gold and Cost of Libraries||British Gymnasts on a roll||Drugs Row – China’s pool win||Wanted – Gold Medal for Britain|
|Weds 1st Aug||Olympics – Table Tennis||The Greatest Olympian – Phelps||Here Wiggo – Bradley Wiggins||Ministers plot end to civil service neutrality||Olympics – keep calm and carry on||Zara’s Gold medal||Going for Wiggold – Bradley Wiggins|
|Thurs 2nd Aug||Olympics||Bradley Wiggins||Day we rode and rowed into Olympic history||Bradley Wiggins win||Rowing and Cycling||Golden winners||Gold for Britain|
|Fri 3rd Aug||Olympics – C2||Split – team GB and Syria||Tears Of Hoy||Split – It’s raining medals and Syria||Olympics – Royal Guests||Chris Hoy||Medals Ahoy!|
|Sat 4th Aug||British cycling||Gold for Vicky Pendleton||Here come the girls – medal wins||Jess Ennis starts her Olympics||Gold for Vicky Pendleton||Vicky Pendleton’s Gold||Pedal to the Medals – Vicky Pendleton|
|Sun 5th Aug||Jess Ennis wins||Jess Ennis||Jess Ennis||Jess Ennis||Jess Ennis wins||Jess Ennis||Jess Ennis|
|Olympics headlines||Olympics and another story||Another story only|