Who can represent the nation? Elite athletes, global mega events and the contested boundaries of national belonging
For those studying national belonging, elite athletes competing in international mega events offer particularly compelling case studies as they represent the nation during periods of sustained media attention and heightened emotional registers. But when compared with other types of representatives - heads of state, ambassadors, political leaders - they have received much less scholarly attention. This paper analyses reporting of the ‘Plastic Brits’ debate, where elite athletes brought in to represent Britain at the Olympics were subject to ongoing scrutiny and critique. Developing an analytical framework that uses insights from Elias, Goffman and Hage, we focus on three key issues. First, how a taken-for-granted ‘logic of nationalism’ underlies discussions about which athletes should (not) represent Britain. Second, how the nation’s boundaries are discursively marked with reference to a range of everyday features. Third, the use of different ‘destigmatisation strategies’ by athletes caught up in the ‘Plastic Brits’ debate.
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Communication and Media