Rio 2016 A Theoretical Look at the Russian Doping Scandal

By Danyelle Gary


Mass Media and sports

Media plays an important role in countries around the world. In a time of globalization, the media landscape continues to have greater influence and greater reach. World system theory details the division of countries into specific zones. Core zones have more power and influence than others (McPhail, 2014). Media and sports have a strong connection in shaping the perceptions of the public (Ahmed & Hussain, 2016). Agenda-setting theory focusses on the agenda of the media to, over time, become the agenda of the public (Kim & McCombs, 2007). The connection extends to the Olympic Games, arguably the most popular sporting event in history (McPhail, 2014).

The Olympic games

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games began on August 5, 2016. The event marked the first Olympic Games hosted by a South American country (Wharton, 2016). Over 11,000 athletes participated from 206 countries, including Bahrain, Singapore, and Iceland (“National Olympic Committees (NOC) - Olympic Movement,” 2017). Forty-two summer sports were represented and approximately 2,400 Olympic medals were awarded (In, 2016). The 2016 Summer Olympics is known to be the richest game in Olympic history, in terms of sponsors. Television broadcasting company NBC paid $4.4 billion for the rights to broadcast the 19-day event through 2020 (Settimi, 2016).

(“Olympic Photos, Galleries & Slideshows | Top Olympic Images,” 2017)
Google Images
(“Olympic Photos, Galleries & Slideshows | Top Olympic Images,” 2017)

Online publications can play an important role in shaping the opinions of the public. Media outlets can also have an effect on policies of such significant international events as the Summer Olympics. It’s important to note that some countries have greater influence on the world stage. Core zones possess significant economic power and much more media influence (McPhail, 2014). BBC, Deutsche Well, and Euronews are all considered core zones because of their association with the European Union.

In light of agenda-setting theory, the three online European publications contributed varied, but sometimes similar, agendas. There is a clear line of agenda in the publications’ aim to provide key facts about the Russian doping scandal for the 2016 Summer Olympics. However, when it came to human interest and editorial pieces, the coverage style was different for each publication. BBC communicated more of the general facts and gave less coverage to editorials and opinion pieces. Deutsche Well relayed much more human interest pieces and pushed the narrative that the athletes were being unfairly treated because doping occurred in other countries. In terms of frequency, Euronews dedicated the least amount of coverage to news regarding the Russian doping scandal. The leading narrative was the presentation of the investigation as a political move, one in which the athletes ultimately suffered.


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In, J. (2016, August 8). 16 facts: Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Kim, K., & McCombs, M. (2007). News Story Descriptions and the Public’s Opinions of Political Candidates. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(2), 299–314.

McPhail, T. L (2014). Global communication: Theories, stakeholders, and trends. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell

National Olympic Committees (NOC) - Olympic Movement. (2017, April 6). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

Olympic Photos, Galleries & Slideshows | Top Olympic Images. (2017, February 23). Retrieved April 26, 2017, from

Settimi, C. (2016, August 5). The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics: By The Numbers. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Wharton, D. (2016, August 21). How the first Olympic Games in South America fared amid Zika worries, a doping scandal and some gaffes - LA Times. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

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