Raziskava o narodni identiti in športu v medijih po svetu

Konec novembra pripravljam novo raziskavo na temo nacionalne identitete, množičnih medijev in športa. V ta namen bom priredil fokusno skupino – majhno skupinsko diskusijo – ki bo potekala v petek, 24. novembra, od 16.30 do približno 18.00 v Ljubljani.

Nekoliko več informacij o raziskavi je podanih v nadaljevanju; kdor želi branje preskočiti, a kljub temu sodelovati v raziskavi – to je brezplačno, ne predstavlja posebnih tveganj, a tudi ne neposrednih koristi – lahko izpolni obrazec, dostopen na https://www.1ka.si/a/141895. Po 16. novembru bom vsem, ki bodo obrazec izpolnili, sporočil, ali bodo vključeni v diskusijo in kje bo ta potekala.

Tudi če ne utegnete sodelovati, bom vesel, če boste razširili informacijo o tej raziskavi in morda pritegnili k sodelovanju koga drugega.

Zdaj pa še celotno povabilo:

Skupina raziskovalcev pod vodstvom Simona Lična z univerze Washington State (ZDA) vas vabi k sodelovanju v fokusni skupini (skupinski diskusiji) v petek, 24. novembra, ob 16.30 na temo narodne identitete in športa. Fokusna skupina bo potekala v Ljubljani in bo trajala približno uro in pol.

Tema pogovora bo vaše razumevanje narodne identitete in pojmov, kot so domoljubje in nacionalizem, posebej v povezavi s športom in množičnimi mediji. Vaša stališča bodo prispevala k razumevanju vpliva športa, predvsem v množičnih medijih, na narodno identiteto v različnih državah. Poleg tega nas zanima, ali preseljevanja vplivajo na vaša stališča o tej temi. Ugotovitve bodo služile pripravi novega vprašalnika in bodo predstavljene v revijah in na konferencah, namenjenih raziskovalnim in strokovnim javnostim.

Če želite 24. novembra sodelovati v fokusni skupini, vas prosimo, da izpolnite kratek vprašalnik, dostopen na tem naslovu: https://www.1ka.si/a/141895. Vprašalnik bo aktiven do četrtka, 16. novembra. Nato bomo izbrali sodelujoče in poskusili zagotoviti čimbolj raznolik nabor pogledov na to temo. O povabilu k sodelovanju vas bomo v vsakem primeru obvestili.

Sodelovanje v raziskavi je prostovoljno. Če se odločite pristopiti v raziskavi, lahko sodelovanje v vsakem trenutku prekinete brez posledic. Sodelujoči ne bodo prejeli nobenega plačila. Podatki, zbrani v tej raziskavi, in vaša identiteta bodo zaščiteni. Vaše izjave ne bodo poimensko pripisane vam.

Za morebitna vprašanja se obrnite na vodjo raziskave dr. Simona Lična na elektronski naslov simon.licen@wsu.edu.

Hvala za pozornost; upamo, da bomo lahko spoznali vaša stališča na to temo.

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EuroBasket articles published in academic journals

For the curious and interested, an article I wrote on the influence of major sports events on patriotic and nationalistic attitudes has been published online by the International Review for the Sociology of Sport.

The article is entitled, “Influence of hosting a major sports event on patriotic attitudes: The EuroBasket 2013 competition in Slovenia,” and can be accessed by clicking on the link. Readers interested in viewing the full article will need to access is through a library that is subscribed to the journal (or purchase access).

The study involved three survey waves to understand whether staging a major sports event such as the European basketball championship for men, which Slovenia hosted in 2013, increases patriotic or nationalistic attitudes among the general population. Results indicate it does not – although respondents who watched at least some of the event live or on television exhibited higher patriotic, nationalist, and smug sentiments after the tournament than the general population. This is probably a consequence of sports fans being more interested in international competition to begin with rather than a nationalizing impact of live viewing or television broadcasts; correlation is not the same as causation.

The findings of this study disprove popular claims (often made even by governments, including Slovenia’s at the time) that hosting an international sports event increases patriotic feelings among the general population. Effects, if any, are more nuanced and impact a population that is prone and primed to exhibit greater national identity to begin with.

Sports professionals and media reporters, in addition to scholars, should examine this study and its results. Most notably, they should keep in mind the need to provide guarantees that international events will contribute to the economic and/or societal development of the countries hosting them as nationalizing effects (and national unity that might follow it) are negligible.

This is the third published study focusing this basketball tournament. An earlier article just printed in Communication and Sport examined international newspaper coverage of the event. Despite the organizers’ assertion otherwise, it showed that media attention in the event was limited: selected generalist newspapers in twelve foreign countries on five continents dedicated very little attention to the tournament. Only Croatian readers enjoyed substantial coverage before the tournament, whereas most other newspapers dedicated little if any attention to topics beyond their teams’ performances. As my four co-authors and I wrote in the abstract to “International Newspaper Coverage of the 2013 EuroBasket for Men,” “hosting such events are not by default the promotional and economic boon organizers argue and the public believes.”

Finally, an article published in the International Journal of Sport Management and co-authored by Amy Cole examined public perceptions of social impacts of the competition. We found that the tournament increased the perceived value of such events among survey participants. Perceived benefits included world-wide recognition, promotion of active lifestyles, and economic improvements – some of which were disputed in this and later articles on the topic. Perceived negative aspects referred to the cost and inaccessibility of tickets, and to modest international tourist appeal.

Amy worked with me as research assistant at Washington State University. After successfully defending her doctoral dissertation, she is now employed with Resource Development Associates in Oakland.

A fourth article examining some economic aspects of the event is still under review, and a proposal for a comprehensive presentation of key findings related to this event has been submitted to the 2017 Play the Game conference. Hopefully, the late November gathering of academics, professionals, and policy-makers in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) will make a nice setting for the talk.

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[SI] Stava legend ali legendarni plagiat?

Televizijski oglas Pivovarne Laško močno spominja na ameriško reklamo za McDonald’s

To poletje se Pivovarna Laško oglašuje s kampanjo, imenovano Stava. Zvezdi oglaševalske akcije sta nogometaša Sebastjan Cimirotić in Marcos Tavares, ki se merita v tem, kdo je »večja legenda.« Kampanja zajema vsaj televizijske oglase in obcestne oglasne panoje, vključuje pa tudi spletno komponento: na spletni strani stava.si lahko obiskovalci napovejo zmagovalca (in so za pravilno napoved nagrajeni z zabojem piva), oglasi pa tudi spodbujajo k uporabi ključnika (»hashtaga«) #nalegende.

Kampanjo je razvila družba Luna TWBA. Njeno bistvo oziroma merilo, kdo od omenjenih nastopajočih nogometašev je »večja legenda,« je, kdo doseže težji oziroma bolj domiseln zadetek na nogometnem igrišču. Nagrada je steklenica piva. V prvem oglasu nogometaša stavo skleneta:

V drugem pa se začneta meriti:

Oglas močno spominja na ameriško reklamo za verigo restavracij McDonald’s, ki so jo v Združenih državah Amerike prvič predvajali leta 1993. V njej sta se košarkarja Larry Bird in Michael Jordan potegovala, kdo bo dosegel težji oziroma bolj izviren koš. Nagrada je kosilo iz McDonaldove restavracije oziroma znameniti sendvič Big Mac, ki ga je pred tem prinesel »Mike:«

Oglas, imenovan »Showdown« (»Obračun«), je bil v Združenih državah Amerike prvič predvajan v okviru finala prvenstva v ameriškem nogometu (t.im. »Super Bowl«) leta 1993. Košarkarja sta poletje pred tem osvojila zlato olimpijsko medaljo kot člana t.im. košarkarskega »Dream Teama,« Super Bowl pa je zaradi njegove izredne gledanosti nekakšen ameriški televizijski praznik, ko številni oglaševalci premierno predvajajo nove oglase. Za občutek: cena predvajanja 30-sekundnega oglasa med tekmo leta 2017 je znašala pet milijonov dolarjev.

McDonaldov oglas, ki ga je sicer posnela agencija Leo Burnett, je bil izredno priljubljen in tudi uspešen: ameriški časopis USA Today ga je označil za najboljši oglas, predvajan med tisto tekmo. (V naslednjih mesecih so na televiziji predvajali več različic tega oglasa.) Naslednje leto je bilo posneto nadaljevanje, ko se je košarkarjema pridružil Charles Barkley, leta 2010 pa sta se za Big Mac kosilo potegovala košarkarja LeBron James in Dwight Howard.

Laškina »Stava« je konceptualno močno podobna McDonaldovemu »Obračunu:« dve »legendi,« sicer različnih športov, se merita v (očitno pretiranih) športnih spretnostih (v obeh oglasih celo mečejo oziroma brcajo tudi s tribun), nagrada pa je materialno skromne, pomensko oziroma statusno pa visoke vrednosti (kosilo, pivo). Oglasa sta podobna celo v tem, da obračuna nista zaključena oziroma bolj ali manj posredno nakazujeta, da se bosta nadaljevala – domnevno v prihodnjih oglasih.

Zasnova, temeljna zamisel oglasov je sicer zanimiva, vendar je pri slehernem ustvarjalnem dosežku pomembna – morda celo najpomembnejša – izvirnost; kopije so neizbežno slabše od izvirnikov. V tem primeru se velja tudi vprašati, ali je podobnost med oglasoma iz leta 1993 (oziroma še 1994 in 2010) in 2017 naključna ali gre za kopijo ali celo plagiat?

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Exposure to Mega-Events Not Automatic Patriotic Boost

In early November, I had the opportunity to discuss the influence of media exposure to sports events on national audiences at the conference of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Tampa, Florida.

This presentation reported the correlation of patriotic attitudes among Slovenians with their media consumption of the European basketball championship hosted by Slovenia in 2013 and the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

It turns out higher television consumption is correlated with patriotic attitudes, but not in the way most people imagine: Overall levels were statistically similar before and after the event, but those who watched more sports on television scored higher on scales measuring patriotism (a feeling of attachment to one’s country), nationalism (a sense of superiority over other countries), and smugness (a brazen sense of primacy). Watching sports does not make one a patriot; rather, more identified spectators tend to tune in more to begin with.

Interestingly, internationalism (a sense of world sharing or global welfare) was not influenced by the amount of sport-watching.

Differences were even more pronounced in 2013, when the event was smaller (a European basketball championship rather than the Summer Olympics) but it was much closer (Slovenia versus Brazil) than the one in 2016.

Television remains a unique medium as patriotic traits did not differ with regard to newspaper readership or online media consumption.

The presentation was part of a panel on Sport, Media, and Mega-Events. Other speakers included notable scholars Professors Lawrence Wenner and John Vincent.

More scholarship on mediated sports, national identification, and sports events in post-socialist contexts will be presented in academic conferences and journals soon.

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Olympic Broadcasting Talk at University of Memphis

After talking to students and the general audience at Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, Id., a second opportunity to discuss Olympic media emerged in early November. This time, students at the University of Memphis were the audience for a guest lecture on Olympic broadcasting.

The lecture focused on how video images from the Olympic Games are produced and how international broadcasters—or RHB, short for Rights Holders Broadcasters—use them.

The lecture was part of an Honors course discussing specifically the Rio Olympic Games and mass media. The meeting took place via videoconference.

The instructor teaching the course, Dr. Roxane Coche, was satisfied with the outcome. Indeed, despite the indirect nature of the meeting, we were able to establish surprisingly good interaction and discussion.

Dr. Coche is herself a former journalist. This summer, she led a group of students from universities in Memphis and North Carolina (Chapel Hill) to volunteer as sports writers and reporters at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Olympic Games are shown in over 200 countries and territories world-wide, making them the biggest TV show on Earth.  The video signal is produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services, the broadcasting branch of the International Olympic Committee.

In Rio, over one thousand cameras captured 3,120 hours of live sport competitions.

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Olympic Lecture at Lewis-Clark State College

Following this summer’s trip to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, I was offered the opportunity to discuss my observations at the Dr. Bob Frederick Sport Leadership Lecture Series organized by Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.

The talk entitled Lessons from the Rio 2016 Olympics touched on the issues of spectator attendance at the Rio Olympics, facilities used, execution of the games, and the people involved.

The talk was part of a lecture series honoring Dr. Bob Frederick, a long-time sport leadership professional best known for his work at the University of Kansas. There, he competed as a student-athlete and later coached, served as an athletic director, and taught classes in sport management.

This year’s series included over two dozen talks from sport professionals including Swen Nater, a two-time UCLA basketball champion under the guidance of John Wooden and twelve-year NBA/ABA and All-Star player.

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Olympic Media Appearances

Before and during my recent visit to Rio de Janeiro to observe the Olympic Games, I talked to a number of media outlets about the event, how it’s packaged for the media, and what to expect from it.

First, an international study I am conducting with colleagues in Australia, Brazil, and the United States was presented by MMC RTV Slovenija, the website of the public service broadcaster. Thanks to Slavko Jerič for being dedicated to providing a broad coverage of sport!

Then, I spoke to Radio Capodistria about the social, political, and economic implications of the Olympic Games. In that talk, I even correctly “predicted” medal performances from Kosovo (in judo) and Fiji (rugby). Andrea Saccone is also introducing alternative perspectives to Radio Capodistria’s sports programming.

Finally, I spoke to Val 202’s (Radio Slovenija) Anja Hlača-Ferjančič about my observations in Rio and, more generally, media coverage of sport. I look forward to sharing more insightful observations on the topic in future interviews!

Hopefully, readers and viewers enjoy the news items and stories listed above.

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Host Cities Are Overwhelmed. Give Them Less Time.

The text below was first published as an op-ed on Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simon-liaeen/post_12906_b_11615508.html?1471882399.

I left Rio de Janeiro five days before the end of the Olympics; this 16-day event, which has been dubbed the “greatest show on earth,” the “biggest show on television,” or simply the biggest circus, closes on August 21.

Two days into the games, I was asked on August 7 what it would take to consider them a success. At the time, I argued that it will be a success if the games conclude as scheduled. I stand by my assessment; by Day Five, I started being able to pass some (admittedly very few and not crucial) “checkpoints” without having my media accreditation examined. As the number of volunteers, both domestic (some of whom go AWOL) and international (some of whom go back to their normal lives in other countries and continents), and staff (the organizers explained in a meeting that some chambermaids stopped showing up for work due to dissatisfaction with their salary) further decreases in the final days of the Olympics, the number of issues and setbacks is bound to increase further. The Paralympics, currently scheduled for September 7-18, will be significantly downsized and were on the brink of being cancelled altogether due to cash shortage.

In my estimate, the organizers of the 2016 Olympics would need approximately one more year of hard work to prepare Rio and all necessary facilities for the event. Permanent venues in the Olympic Park lack finishing touches, but the big issues are athlete and media accommodations, many of which featured exposed wiring, faulty plumbing, missing appliances and even outside walls. The two media villages in the Barra cluster are surrounded by construction sites—many buildings within the village are not yet completed or inhabited, either. The traffic is chaotic despite the many detours, traffic marshals, and dedicated Olympic lanes. If London staged a Cultural Olympiad in 2012, the home of the Carnival and bossa nova can barely claim to be hosting an athletic one.

The poor condition of the facilities is not so much a matter of comfort — many campgrounds are in worse conditions, though admittedly it is odd to compare a flat in the Olympic village to a campsite — but rather a financial one. Apartments completed in a hurry (broadcasters had to indicate accommodation needs as early as 2013 and had to confirm their bookings by April 2015, probably so organizers would know how many units need to be completed) will need to be remodeled before they can be sold as housing. Re-piping, retiling, and repainting literally thousands of units will further increase the already very steep figure on the bottom of the Olympic bill; a bill which, as usual with such mega-events, will be footed in great part by the citizens of Brazil.

Olympic rings falling apart

Has the Olympic Movement started falling to pieces in Rio? Photo credit: Simon Ličen

Adding to that figure will also be the temporary competition venues built only for the event, including large ones hosting beach volleyball, rugby, team handball, modern pentathlon, and part of the tennis center. While temporary buildings will eventually be dismantled, thus saving the sizable long-term operating and maintenance costs typical of “white elephants“, this also means their “construction” cost needs to be covered by box office revenues. This looks unlikely given the very modest attendance: Hundreds or even thousands of seats sit empty in all events except for home team performances in team sports.

Empty seats at the rugby medal ceremony

The empty orange and yellow seats at the Rio 2016 women’s rugby medal ceremony. Photo: Simon Ličen

The piling costs and other woes of the 2016 Olympics have received some media coverage; they would deserve more. A visit in streets and neighborhoods away from Olympic venues confirms that most cariocas are not directly affected by the ill-planned extravaganza even though they will cover part of the expensive bill. Others paid an even steeper price. Still, too few reporters went up to the edge. Criticism of the chauvinist rhetoric of some American Olympic broadcasters is in order, but seems somewhat self-centered. North American mass media should do a better job of informing and educating the public about the deeper social issues that accompany such mega-events. Cycling became considerably cleaner (though it still has far to go before it can be considered a truly clean sport) after German broadcasters ended their television contract with the Tour de France and later exposed the international cycling federation’s plot to cover up Alberto Contador’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. International sport is sensitive to media campaigns as it depends on media coverage for survival.

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Agenda 2020 recognizes that reform is necessary: The Olympic Games have become unmanageable mammoth enterprises. Let me throw in a suggestion that would fit well with the forty reforms recently launched by President Thomas Bach.

Host cities are currently chosen seven years in advance; hence, we learned in 2015 that Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Olympics and next year we will find out the host of the 2024 summer ones. This is turning out to be too short a time frame to prepare a realistic urbanistic plan, build new accommodations and stadia, plan the logistics, and develop a meaningful and comprehensive post-Olympic sustainability plan. On the other hand, seven years are an eternity in today’s era of instant gratification and frenetic pace: When Rio de Janeiro was selected in 2009, Brazil’s economic outlook was significantly different than today’s, the worst recession since World War II was ending, crude oil was twice as expensive as it is now, the Arab Spring had yet to commence, and Instagram had not been invented yet.

A solution to this ill-conceived system could be to select the organizer on a shorter notice—say, four, rather than seven years in advance. This would encourage bids from cities or consortiums (according to the first proposed reform of Agenda 2020) which either have (most of) the necessary infrastructure already in place or are in the process of developing it and will build apartment complexes and/or stadia regardless of whether they will actually be selected as hosts. Such approach should deter candidate cities applying only with blueprints for what might as well be castles in the sky. Rather, it would encourage bids similar to those of Los Angeles in 1984 (which used existing sports infrastructure) and Barcelona in 1992 (whose renovation plans predated the bid). The four years between selection and execution should suffice to adapt facilities, build very few temporary ones, and develop a comprehensive logistical plan. Finally, the next host city or cities could be announced at the closing ceremony of the preceding edition, thus revitalizing a ceremony that seems to have lost most of its appeal and viewers. This would make great copy, which is something both professional sports and media organizations are sensitive to.

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Interview for Radio Slovenija

Days before traveling to the Rio Olympics, I discussed sport, media, money, and politics for Radio Slovenija. Thanks to Tatjana Pirc for the very interesting talk; fans of the topic can listen to the interview (in the Slovenian language) following this link.

Despite the nice looks, the 2016 Rio Olympics have started falling apart one circle at the time (photo credit: Simon Licen)

Despite the nice looks, the 2016 Rio Olympics have started falling apart one circle at the time (photo credit: Simon Licen)

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Olympic Threats Interview in WalletHub

As the 2016 Summer Olympics get closer, WalletHub, a personal finance website, interviewed me for a story on the threats faced by the looming mega-event.

The story, which can be found here, crunches some numbers related to the event and features interviews with scholars on the risks and threats related to the Olympics.

My interview can be also accessed directly by clicking here.

Enjoy the read, and keep an eye on the Olympic and on independent reports from Rio.

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