Beyond crisis? Institutionalized mediatization of the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2020 Olympic Games

Daniel Burdsey, Enrico Michelini, Sine Agergaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following the global “refugee crisis” of 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT), providing opportunities for refugee athletes to compete at the 2016 and 2020 (2021) Summer Olympics. To examine the changing intertwinements between wider social dynamics and mediated constructions of refugees, this article considers the IOC’s representation of the ROT around the 2020 Games. With this aim, a catalogue of articles published on the IOC’s website was examined through critical discourse analysis. Four discursive themes emerged: 1. The saving, healing and transformative power of Western sporting capital and the Olympic Games; 2. The ROT as epitome of the Global North’s inclusivity and benevolence; 3. Refugee athletes as offering hope and inspiration to other refugees; and 4. The neoliberal ideal that “hard work pays off” and “you can overcome everything” in and through sport. More broadly, current changes in the societal reception of refugees were evident in the IOC’s communication, which appeared to assume that we have moved beyond the “refugee crisis”. The IOC disseminates an “official” discourse, which elides the challenging structural conditions that refugees face after their arrival in receiving contexts, and obscures current political reluctance towards finding more long-term solutions for refugees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1138
Number of pages18
JournalCommunication & Sport
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022


  • International Olympic Committee
  • discourse
  • migration
  • power
  • sport


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