Journal article Open Access

Soft power, ideology and symbolic manipulation in Summer Olympic Games opening ceremonies: a semiotic analysis

Arning, Chris

This paper is a semiotic analysis of Summer Olympic Games Opening ceremonies as performative texts. Owing to massive media attention, these events have become eagerly awaited global spectacles. However, with such a wide audience, the challenge is to convey both an Olympic welcome and something truly unique about the host city and nation. This creates a communication challenge and some interesting questions in terms of symbolism. Research into the content of Olympic Games ceremonies reveals an exercise both in forging internal cohesion and in projecting soft power. Soft power is an increasingly valuable currency in a multipolar world and opening ceremonies are a prime soft power opportunity. The paper seeks to uncover the ways successive Olympics Games organising committees have sought to balance the competing communicational objectives of opening ceremonies through double coding. The author considers every ceremony from Moscow 1980 to London 2012 in this comparative semiotic analysis. Keywords: Olympics; soft power; nation branding; codes; ideology

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