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International Journal of Event and Festival Management The role of the media in influencing residents'
International Journal of Event and Festival Management The role of the media in influencing residents'

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

The role of the media in influencing residents' support for the 2012 Olympic Games Brent W. Ritchie Richard Shipway P. Monica Chien

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Brent W. Ritchie Richard Shipway P. Monica Chien , (2010),"The role of the media in influencing residents' support for the 2012 Olympic Games", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 1 Iss 3 pp. 202 - 219 Permanent link to this document:

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at IJEFM 1,3 202 International Journal of Event and Festival Management Vol.

International Journal of Event and Festival Management Vol. 1 No. 3, 2010 pp. 202-219 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited


DOI 10.1108/17852951011078014

The role of the media in influencing residents’ support for the 2012 Olympic Games

Brent W. Ritchie

The School of Tourism, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Richard Shipway

The School of Services Management, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK, and

P. Monica Chien

The School of Tourism, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of the media on residents’s support of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games within the two respective communities of Weymouth and Portland in England and in doing so better understand what influences residents’ support for mega events. Design/methodology/approach – A quantitative methodology was employed using a systematic random sampling method. A drop and collect technique with self-completion surveys was used. A total of 404 completed surveys were returned. Logistical regression was used to examine the influence of the media on overall event support. Findings – Although residents were supportive of hosting the event in the local area their overall support was influenced by their perceptions of the media portrayal. Those respondents who perceive the event portrayal as fair were much more in favour of hosting the event than other groups of respondents. The type of portrayal in the local media was not significant. Research limitations/implications – The nature of media exposure and attitudes toward the media were not examined. Future research is needed on how the media present and frame issues related to mega sport event hosting, and whether involvement or commitment influences residents’ media perceptions and overall event support. Practical implications – Fairness in reporting appears to be a greater influencing factor than the type of media coverage (positive, negative, and neutral). This suggests the need for open communication of the costs as well as the benefits from event organisers and unbiased reporting from media sources. Originality/value – This is one of the first studies to examine the influence of the media on residents’ support for mega sporting events. It proposes future research directions to explore this neglected area.

Keywords England, Sporting events, Olympic Games, Tourism, Perception, Mass media

Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction There is a general agreement that mega tourism events, such as the Olympic Games, provide long-term impacts on the host destinations before and long after the events are finished (Ritchie and Aitken, 1985; Roche, 1994). Much of the published literature has emphasised benefits such as the economic and tourism effects (Kasimati, 2003; Ritchie and Aitken, 1985), whereas the social impacts of such events have received lesser

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research attention. An understanding of the social dimension of hosting a mega sporting event, however, is crucial in order to develop local support for hosting such events (Fredline, 2005; Gursoy and Kendall, 2006). A number of studies have suggested a balanced appraisal of event impacts, through the consultation and involvement of residents during the event bidding and preparation phases (Mihalik and Simonetta, 1998; Ritchie and Aitken, 1984; Zhou and Ap, 2009). Thus, it is important to further understand not only the level of residents’ support or opposition toward the event development, but also the reasons behind such behaviour in order to assist mega event policy making. In an attempt to assess residents’ perceptions of hosting a mega sporting event, an examination of the role played by the media in shaping public views is necessary. Literature suggests that media coverage of special events through advertising and public relations is likely to have an impact on favourable presentation of the destination and indirect tourism generation (Brown et al., 2002; Getz and Fairley, 2004; Whitson and Macintosh, 1996). Indeed, the media has been considered as a crucial stakeholder and important for collaboration in building event brand equity (Mossberg and Getz, 2006). Whilst there is a developing body of literature that has identified a strong connection between events and destination image (Chalip et al., 2003; Green et al., 2010; Mossberg, 2000; Jago et al., 2003; Richards and Wilson, 2004; Boo and Busser, 2006), most research has focused on the perceptions of outsiders and how these have changed due to the hosting of events (Tomlinson, 2005; Hede, 2005; Ritchie et al., 2007). Yet the media may play an important role in shaping residents’ perceptions and overall support for mega sport events. The extent to which this influence may change over time has also not been explored. This research represents an extension of the longitudinal study conducted by Ritchie et al. (2009) and aims to further understand host community perceptions of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games within the two respective communities of Weymouth and Portland in England. Both these communities are the location of the National Sailing Academy (NSA), and host venue for the sailing and windsurfing events for the 2012 Games. The examination of residents’ perceptions in a destination outside of the host Olympic city (London) has not been extensively studied to date. Specifically, the effect of the media has been stated in some of the literature as a possible factor in influencing residents’ support for events, but has not been examined empirically. The paper outlines the first stage of a longitudinal study with the goal of gaining insight into residents’ perceptions of a megasporting event and the role of the media in influencing overall support. The first section of the literature review outlines some of the theories and concepts related to the variation of residents’ impact perceptions. This section also includes a brief review of previous mega event residents’ perceptions studies, where the influence of the media is noted but not discussed in detail or explored empirically. The second part of this literature review describes the media effects within event management studies and the final part lays the theoretical foundation for media effects by focusing on residents’ processing and interpretation of the event information depicted in the media. As part of a longitudinal study, a survey was used to measure residents’ perceptions toward Olympic tourism development. Results and future research directions are outlined at the end that may contribute toward better understanding the influence of the media in shaping residents’ perceptions of mega-sporting events.

Support for the 2012 Olympic Games


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2. Literature review

2.1 Residents’ perceptions and attitude variations: theories and concepts

It is vital to understand residents’ perceptions as one indicator comprising a broader

need for social impact assessment and the integration of mega events with sustainability

principles. Several studies have proposed the social exchange theory (Emerson, 1972) as the theoretical framework for understanding the variation of residents’ attitudes and perceptions toward tourism and events within the community. Ap (1992) noted that the social exchange theory is useful in understanding residents’ perceptions of tourism impacts, as exchange behaviour is related to perceptions. Assuming the principles of social exchange theory, individuals select exchanges after assessing the expected rewards and costs (Gursoy et al., 2002). Accordingly, residents may have more positive views toward tourism if they perceive that their tourism exchanges bring individual benefits, but will have negative perceptions of tourism if they perceive these benefits

to be outweighed by costs. In other words, expressed support for tourism is considered

as a willingness to enter into an exchange (Jurowski et al., 1997). For instance, residents who benefit from tourism, perhaps through employment or business turnover, may have more favourable perceptions than those who do not (Fredline, 2004), while those locals that can enjoy recreational facilities created from mega events are found to be more supportive of the hosting of such events (Allen et al., 1993). The social exchange theory was applied by Waitt (2003, p. 196) in his study on the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where he importantly noted that “exchange relationships are not temporally static. Residents constantly re-evaluate the perceived consequences of the exchange transaction within a dynamic social setting.” This suggests the need for longitudinal research to monitor changes, and provides reasons for these changes before, during and after the hosting of mega sporting events. Such information can be used in decision making for event planning and communication strategies and also negative impact alleviation. Gursoy and Kendall (2006) also used social exchange theory as a basis for their research which modelled how residents’ attitudes toward a mega sporting event were influenced by residents’ community concern, their emotional attachment to the community and their eco-centric attitude or environmental sensitivity. However, Pearce et al. (1996) argue that using the social exchange theory to explain residents’ perceptions has many problems associated with it. These authors suggest that residents’ knowledge is mainly socially derived and attitudes are formed within societal and historical contexts. Instead, Pearce et al. (1996) propose the social representation theory (Moscovici, 1981) as a better way to view and understand residents’ attitudes. This theory suggests that residents have representations of tourism which underpin their perceptions of impacts, formed by direct experiences, social interaction and other sources of information, such as the media. The media may play an important role in disseminating information and acting as opinion leaders, influencing residents’ representations. These representations are resistant to change, because they form a frame of reference through which new information is gathered, interpreted and understood. Faulkner and Tideswell (1997) summarised the concepts and studies in terms of

what they term the “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” dichotomy. The “extrinsic” dimension refers to variables that affect residents’ perceptions at the macro level (where they have

a common impact on the community as a whole), whereas the “intrinsic” dimension

realizes that the host community is heterogeneous and perceptions of impacts may

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vary according to variations in the characteristics and circumstances of individuals. There are a range of variables that have explained the “intrinsic” differences between subgroups in the community, which also can help explain different reactions toward mega tourism events, ranging from socio-demographics (Kim and Petrick, 2005), proximity to the event or key tourism resources (Fredline, 2004; Ritchie and Inkari, 2006), political affiliation, length of residency, or attachment to the community (Gursoy and Kendall, 2006). Furthermore, research by Bachleitner and Zins (1999) suggests that residents’ involvement in decision making is an important factor in their perceptions toward tourism development. Fredline and Faulkner (2002) believe many residents feel disenfranchised by the planning process and this may result in negative residents’ perceptions toward the event. A study conducted by Davis et al. (1988) in Florida showed that those with the most negative attitudes toward tourism had a low level of knowledge about tourism, highlighting the importance of information and the potential role of the media. However, no known studies have been conducted into the role of the media in influencing residents’ perceptions of mega sporting events.

Support for the 2012 Olympic Games


2.2 Media effects in event management One of the important extrinsic variables identified by Faulkner and Tideswell (1997) refers to the effect of the media. This variable affects residents’ attitude and community as a whole at the macro level. Researchers agree that media coverage of special events is likely to influence destination image and tourism generation (Brown et al., 2002; Getz and Fairley, 2004; Whitson and Macintosh, 1996). Specifically, added media exposure not only increases global reach of the events, but also helps portray images of social cohesion and expand festival community networks (Carlsen et al., 2007). Active promotion of the event through mass media is believed to enhance the longevity of destination attractiveness (Ritchie and Lyons, 1990), change perceptions and increase pride (Ritchie et al., 2007). Increasingly, event organisations and policy makers seek to understand the social impacts of special events in the hosting community (Delamere, 2001; Delamere et al., 2001; Ritchie et al., 2009; Twynam and Johnston, 2004). Such social impacts and subsequent change in host community reactions may be nurtured and communicated through mass media. Media coverage associated with events highlights issues relating to event outcomes and impacts in the wider environment that generates public discourses, which may or may not be positive (Robertson and Rogers, 2009). In other words, the media can be viewed as an important agent that provides information to the public and shapes interpretation of relevant topics (Robertson and Rogers, 2009). Thus, the vital influence of media on public perceptions needs to be assessed in the tourism context, and media strategy should be integrated into the total event and destination branding (Getz and Fairley, 2004). While past studies have examined the impact of mass-mediated communication on event management and destination image, little is known about how event portrayal in the media influences residents’ perceptions toward the staging of mega sporting events. This lack of research represents an important gap in event management literature, because the mass media represents an important source where residents obtain event-related information. One of the few studies that have investigated the framing effect of mass media was a case study conducted by Falkheimer (2007). Drawing on agenda setting theory and framing theory, he analysed the media effects of the 2005 America’s Cup preregatta

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in Malmo¨, Sweden, suggesting that the influence of such well-organised and professional source of information should not be underestimated. He highlighted that the generally held belief in media effects of events was oversimplified and that the role of mass media in event management could depend on the place context. Through the empirical study, Falkheimer (2007) demonstrated that the media interest and coverage of America’s Cup varied across the country, with local and regional outlets dominated the media profile. The framing of the event by mass media was rather consequential. While the national media coverage was rather neutral but with limited positive image effects, the local and regional media coverage tended to be negative and centred around issues related to social welfare and the controversy of public money spent on risky projects. Such harsh media criticism might have created a legitimacy gap between politicians, stakeholders, and the public (Falkheimer, 2007), leading to a negative image toward the destination similar to the case of 1999 Rugby World Cup in Wales (Jones, 2001). Importantly, Falkheimer (2007) likened the media coverage associated with a sporting event to political communication, suggesting that a lack of media support may be viewed as an expression of a lack of alliances between commercial and public actors. In other words, the role of the media is subject to both political and commercial pressures (Robertson and Rogers, 2009). Although Falkheimers’ study represents one of the first attempts to explain the roles and effects of media, his quantitative and qualitative textual analysis of media publications did not explain whether public opinions varied as a result of exposure to the media, and if so, in what direction. Without measuring consumer responses directly, it would be difficult to establish a relationship between media portrayal of the event and public perceptions. More recently, Robertson and Rogers (2009) studied the coverage of festivals in the media and the public’s perceptions of the effect of festivals in the UK. Following a theoretical framework and methodology similar to those used by Falkheimer (2007), they suggested that media set the agenda (i.e. emphasis placed on an issue) and frame the impacts from and for festivals. In line with Falkheimers’ (2007) research, these authors found that local and national media emerged as strong factors in people’s perception of the socio-cultural impact of festivals. Their two-stage study revealed that newspaper in general, and local media vehicles in particular, tended to disseminate negative rather than positive news and reflect localised concerns. Noticeably, respondents across all types of events rated the significance of local media as being extremely important, indicating that residents’ attitude toward and attendance at any given festival was likely to be affected by local media. Robertson and Rogers (2009) concluded that the content pattern or thematic arrangement of messages in the media could affect public perception of the festivals. While these authors attempted to categorise the themes projected in the media (i.e. social, economic, environmental, and annoyance), they did not examine the linkage between these themes and residents’ reactions. Ritchie et al. (2007) found from a nationwide study in Australia, that those who watched the Australia Day Live event telecast were more likely to believe that that the media coverage of Canberra (the national capital) was portrayed more positively in the media and fewer indicated neutral responses. However, there was no statistical difference on whether they perceived media portrayal to be fair or unfair. Ritchie et al. (2009) explored residents’ perceptions of the impact of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of a longitudinal study to understand the social dimension of Olympic tourism development. They found that media coverage was able

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to influence residents’ perceptions toward the staging of a mega sporting event. In particular, those residents who believed the event as portrayed positively in the media also considered the portrayal as fair. Although the importance of information dissemination and the potential role of media coverage were highlighted in the above studies, current literature provides little direction for understanding the media effect from the residents’ perspective. As an extension of Ritchie et al.’s (2009) study, the present research makes use of the framing theory to further explore the psychological process that underpins residents’ processing of event information in the media.

Support for the 2012 Olympic Games


2.3 Media framing Although the event management literature is sparse on theoretical insights about the influence of media frame on residents’ responses, the issue of how consumers respond to media publicity has been studied in the marketing and consumer behaviour literature (Ahluwalia et al., 2000; Klein and Ahluwalia, 2005; Shiv et al., 1997). Publicity in the mass media is often considered as a credible source of information compared to other types of marketing communications such as advertising (Ahluwalia et al., 2000), and as such it “actively sets the frames of reference that readers or viewers use to interpret and discuss public events” (Scheufele, 1999, p. 105). Essentially, a media frame contains attributes of the news (Entman, 1993) and framing effects is referred to the idea that “people respond differently to different representations of equivalent information” (Braun et al., 1997, p. 405). In much the same way advertising frames consumer processing of product attributes (Levin and Gaeth, 1988), a media frame provides audiences with schemas for organisation and interpretation, allowing people to quickly identify and classify information (Entman, 1993). In addition, certain aspects of the information can be made salient in a communication text in such a way as to generate public discourse or moral evaluation (Entman, 1993; Scheufele, 1999). Braun et al. (1997, p. 405) define salience as “the phenomenon when one’s attention is differentially directed to one portion of the environment rather than to others.” Salient information receives increased weighting during processing and will create disproportionate influence over judgment (Feldman and Lynch, 1988). Journalists, acting as sources in media reporting and broadcasting process, affect public understanding of an issue by crystallising meanings and making them more salient in a communication text (Robertson and Rogers, 2009; Scheufele, 1999). Although people’s information processing is influenced by pre-existing knowledge and personal experience, the presentation of issues in the media can systematically affect how message recipients come to understand these issues (Scheufele, 1999). Consequently, media coverage of a mega-sporting event can be viewed as the creation of a story line that highlights the essence or controversy of a particular issue, such as the event’s socio-cultural impact. It is reasonable to suggest that positive (negative) event depiction in the media is likely to generate favourable (unfavourable) event perceptions, which in turn, should lead to residents’ support (no support) of the event. The influence by the media is optimised when this professional source understands the storytelling genres of the media and only distributes relevant and trustworthy information (Manning, 2001; Scheufele, 1999). According to the persuasion knowledge model (Friestad and Wright, 1994), over time, people develop knowledge about various communication tactics, such as negative publicity in the media, and about persuasion agents’ goals. As a consequence of this learning, people understand how to skilfully cope

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with persuasion attempts and may develop counterarguments if the negative information is perceived to be unfair or inappropriate (Friestad and Wright, 1994). For example, research in political marketing has demonstrated that when voters consider negative political advertising to be unfair, the message will reflect poorly on the sponsor, reduce the persuasiveness of the campaign, and adversely affect voter turnout (Hill, 1989; Phillips et al., 2008). The present research suggests that such backlash effect against the media may also be observed if residents perceive the representation of the event and related issues in the media to be unfair. Stated differently, if the source of the news is perceived as credible and event portrayal is viewed as truthful, believability of the information should ensue and negative information about the event should not discount residents’ support of the event. However, when residents perceive the media to unfairly attack the event, effectiveness of the media communication will be discounted.

3. Methodology The overall aim of this study was to investigate and better understand residents’ perceptions toward Olympic tourism development in Weymouth and Portland in the South West region of England. This included an examination of residents’ perceptions of the positive and negative impacts of hosting the event and overall event support. It also included an examination of possible differences in residents’ perceptions including the influence of external factors on their overall support for the event. The paper is an extension to Ritchie et al. (2009) and primarily reports on the influence of the media on residents’ overall event support. Ritchie et al. (2009) describe in more detail the impact of other factors on residents’ support (such as proximity to the event venues and socio-demographics).

3.1 Study area The Borough of Weymouth and Portland is located in the county of Dorset, England. The county of Dorset is situated within the South West region of England, which is home to almost 5 million people and hosts more than 26 million visitors each year (South West Tourism, 2006). It is a region with more than 1,000 km of coastline and over a third of the area designated as national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty. The South West is also home to England’s only natural World Heritage Site:

the Jurassic Coast, whose cliffs at Portland and Weymouth Bay will provide the backdrop to the 2012 Games sailing events. The Borough of Weymouth and Portland has approximately 64,500 residents. The Borough is in a unique position amongst destinations outside London, as it will host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing events, providing a local opportunity for people from Dorset to be involved in Games time activities, whilst also providing a potential opportunity to drive forward civic engagement, and the chance to strengthen community spirit. The NSA is seen by the Regional Development Agency (RDA) and Borough Councils as an instrumental part of regenerating both the local community and economy following some withdrawal of naval activities from Weymouth and Portland. It is expected to provide affordable, accessible and socially inclusive community facilities allowing local people access to sailing and water sports, and to progress through all levels of ability from newcomers to international elite performers. The academy has high performance training facilities, both ashore and afloat, hosting a regional centre for the English Institute of Sport.

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A preliminary study by Fletcher (2006), written for the South West RDA, suggests that the London 2012 Games will bring a range of economic impacts in the pre-, during-, and post-Games periods. In the period up to 2012, Weymouth and Portland could experience a total cumulative impact of increased visitor spend in the region of £9.6 million over this six-year period. If this trend continued for six years after the Games then a total figure of £19.2 would be recorded over the 12-year period. Based on attendance estimates of 15,000-25,000 during the sailing events, the likely additional spend in the local economy during the event itself would be between £5.8 million and £9.5 million. Dorset may also be able to benefit from the raised profile created by London 2012, beyond the local area of Weymouth and Portland. Current concerns for the local community revolve around transport infrastructure, accessibility concerns for the local community (especially the challenges for local accommodation providers connected to Paralympics), and environmental concerns associated with the area surrounding Chesil beach following plans for a new relief road to reduce traffic congestion.

Support for the 2012 Olympic Games


3.2 Study design

The study used a self-completion questionaire to examine residents’ perceptions about the hosting of the Olympic sailing events and the perceived impact on their community. It should be noted that this research could not provide an objective answer on the actual impacts (as the event has not occurred), and this in itself is ambitious. However, the research allowed residents to self-evaluate the perceived impact of the event, and thus this provides a subjective evaluation, but nevertheless an important social impact indicator. The survey instrument consisted of a cover letter addressed to the residents aged over 18 years in both Weymouth and Portland and a questionnaire. There were two sections to the questionnaire. The first section investigated a wide range of mega sport tourism impacts through the use of impact statements. In particular, many of the statements were adapted from previous tourism social and event impact studies, including Fredline and Faulkner (2002), Fredline et al. (2003), Kim et al. (2006), and Ritchie and Inkari (2006). Another question asked respondents to indicate whether overall they supported the Olympic developments and hosting of the event in the local community, similar to prior studies on Olympic Games (Ritchie and Aitken, 1984, 1985; Ritchie and Lyons, 1990). A total of three additional statements were included in this section to measure residents’ support for tourism, whether they had received sufficient information, and whether they felt able to influence decision making over the event. Previous research had indicated that perceived preparation and ability of the government in planning for the Olympics may influence support for such events (Ritchie and Lyons, 1990). The second part of the questionnaire collected socio-demographic information (e.g. age, gender, length of residency, and distance to the proposed venues), all of which may influence residents’ perceptions toward the event hosting (as has been found in other tourism and event research). It also collected data on residents’ perceptions of media portrayal (two questions), politics (two questions) and participation in the tourism industry or water sports activities. Previous studies have indicated that residents’ reactions to events may vary based on these factors (Twynam and Johnston, 2004).

3.3 Survey implementation

The “drop and collect” method was chosen for this survey (also referred to by a variety of names including drop-off delivery, hand delivery and collection, or self-completion

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questionnaires). This technique involves the hand delivery and recovery of self-completion questionnaires. By combining the strengths and avoiding the limitations of face-to-face and postal surveys, drop and collect method provided a cost effective, reliable, and rapid data collection tool. Respondents were able to complete the questionnaire in their own time yet the technique included the important aspect of personal contact to increase the likely response rate. The technique also avoided interviewer bias and a certain degree of control over the sample selection process. Weymouth and Portland comprises 15 Borough wards. Surveys were equally distributed within selected areas of both Weymouth and Portland, using a street ward road index where streets were randomly selected after numbering, using a systematic sampling procedure. A total of 1,500 questionnaires were dropped off to residents on Monday 8 January 2007 and then they were attempted to be hand collected 48 hours later on Wednesday 10 January 2007. On the occasions where the resident was not present, a stamped addressed envelope was left, along with a covering letter, whereby they were invited to complete and return the questionnaire by post. An incentive in the form of a prize draw to win £50 of store vouchers was offered to the respondents. By the 22 January 2007, there were 404 completed questionnaires providing a response rate of 27 percent. Based on a target population of 64,500 residents, the results have a margin of error of ^ 4.86 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.

3.4 Research limitations and analysis

Two potential limitations of this approach included the concern of researchers when working within certain localities of Weymouth and Portland, and also whilst working at night. Second, the relatively close cluster of respondents could be a limitation of this

method. However, no funding was provided for this study and the costs of contacting a dispersed sample would be proportionally higher for the “drop and collect” method. The technique proved to be fast and cost effective, and is suited to those with a limited research budget. This study utilized a systematic random sampling procedure in order to make generalizations about the broader population. Logistic regression was used to test the effect of media coverage on residents’ support toward the event. The technique was chosen because the outcome variable (i.e. whether the respondent is in favour of developments of the events) is a categorical dichotomy (i.e. yes and no).

4. Results and discussion

4.1 Profile of respondents

Table I summarises the demographic profile of the study sample. Over one half (53.6 percent) were female, while a fairly even spread of age categories was captured in the sampling. The largest age category was those aged 66 years and over (20.6 percent), closely followed by those aged between 36 and 45 years. A total of 63.9 percent were married or living with a partner and 37.6 percent had children aged under 18 years living in their house. Research identified in the previous sections of this paper indicated that residents’ perceptions of tourism and events may vary based on their length of residence, distance to major tourism or event infrastructure, and involvement in tourism. The results illustrate a high length of residence in the local area (74.9 percent, 11 years or more); with 43.5 percent indicating that they lived 4 miles or more from the Olympic venue for the sailing events. Only 9.3 percent of residents indicated that they

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Socio-demographic variables

Sample percent (%)

Census percent a (%)



















and over


Marital status Single or never married


Married or living with a partner


Divorced, separated or widowed


Lifecycle Children under 18 years living at home


Length of local residence Less than one year


Between one and three years


Between four and six years


Between seven and ten years



years or more


Distance to Olympic venue Less than half a mile


Between half a mile and less than a mile


Between one and two miles


Between three and four miles


Four miles or more


Involvement in tourism and water sports Yes, employed in the tourism industry


Yes, involved or participate in water sports


Source: a Office of National Statistics (2001)

























Support for the 2012 Olympic Games


Table I. Socio-demographic profile of sample and population census

were employed in the tourism industry, while a greater proportion (15.7 percent) indicated that they were involved or participated in water sports (either through active participation or in business). The table demonstrates that the sample was generally very representative of the population under study. The socio-demographic profile of respondents should be kept in mind when viewing the remainder of the results section.

4.2 Perceptions toward Olympic tourism developments Overall, respondents were in favour of the events and developments being held in the region with 89.2 percent of respondents in favour and only 10.8 percent not in favour of these developments. This is compared with 85 percent of residents for the first phase of the Winter Olympic study undertaken four years prior to the event (Ritchie and Aitken, 1984), and 93.5 percent of non-host residents undertaken four years prior to hosting the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (Mihalik and Simonetta, 1999). A study, three years prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics indicated that only 31 percent of residents said that they supported or strongly supported the event, however, 46 percent were neutral or undecided in their opinions (Deccio and Baloglu, 2002).

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A factor analysis on the impact statements discovered a five factor solution that represented 60.5 percent of the variance of the sample. The factors were labelled “positive social impacts” (20.5 percent of variance), “negative impacts” (18.8 percent), “transport issues” (8.1 percent), “positive economic impacts” (7.9 percent), and “price rises” (5.2 percent). The factor with the greatest number of differences was that of “positive social impacts” which were perceived more positively by younger residents, living in the local area for between one and three years who lived four miles or more away from the proposed venues. This contradicts studies which suggest the further away people live from the tourism activity, the stronger negative attitudes they have toward it (Ap, 1992; Bachleitner and Zins, 1999; Williams and Lawson, 2001). The second highest number of differences was recorded for the “negative impacts” factor, which received more agreement by those working in the tourism industry, but not those residents who engaged in water sports activity or couples (married or de factos). This result may be due to the local community hosting the sailing and water based activities, and perhaps why those involved in water sports are more positive, as indicated by the social exchange theory. Further detailed discussion concerning these results can be found in Ritchie et al. (2009).

4.3 The media influence Although previous research has indicated that residents’ perceptions toward tourism and events may vary based on socio-demographics, location and length of residence (as noted above), extensive research has not been undertaken to examine the effect of the media in the context of residents’ perceptions. Considering the size and scope of the Olympic Games and the media coverage and importance of communicating local government decision making surrounding the planning, development and hosting of the Games, the authors felt that it was important to examine perceptions of the local media portrayal, and to examine the possible effect of these factors on overall support for the event. A total of 59.9 percent of respondents believed that the events were portrayed positively in the local media, while 22.5 percent felt that the portrayal was neutral. Only 5 percent of respondents indicated that the portrayal was negative while 12.1 percent of respondents were unsure about the event representation in the media. In addition, a total of 59.7 percent of respondents perceived the events to be fairly depicted in the media, although 14.6 percent considered the portrayal as unfair and 24.8 percent were uncertain about the fairness of media coverage. As noted earlier, a logistical regression analysis was undertaken. Simply put, by using logistic regression models, one can predict which of the two categories a person is likely to belong to given certain other information, such as the individual’s perception of event-related news. The independent or predictor variables in our models were:



residents’ belief of the event portrayal in the local media; and

a fairness perception of such portrayal.

As the independent variables were categorical, we followed the approach adopted by Juric et al. (2002) to classify these variables using a binary coding system:

“1” if the subject satisfied the category and “0” otherwise. The variable that had the highest frequency was selected as the base or reference group, against which all the other groups were compared. For example, in the case of residents’ perception of event

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portrayal in the local media, the base group included respondents who perceived the portrayal as positive, and the other groups were compared relative to that group. Given that this study is one of the first in the field and there is little past research to tell us which variable to expect to be a reliable predictor, forward stepwise method was employed in the analysis. The stepwise methods would allow examination of the variables in the model and retain a predictor if its inclusion makes significant improvement in the 2 2 log likelihood statistic. In other words, a predictor would be removed from the model if the resulting change in the Wald statistic is insignificant. The statistical significance of the predictors was tested using the x 2 statistics at p , 0.05. The value of exp b (odds ratio) was reported to indicate the probability of an event occurring caused by a unit change in the predictor. An odds ratio of more than one indicates that as the predictor variable increases, the likelihood of the outcome occurring increases (i.e. a respondent’s support toward the event developments). Conversely, an odds ratio of less than one indicates that as the predictor variable increases, the likelihood of the outcome occurring decreases. Overall, our logistic regression models correctly classified 89.4 percent of respondents (Table II). The estimated coefficient (ß) and odds ratio (exp b) indicated that fairness perception of event portrayal in the media was positively related to the reported residents’ support toward event developments (Table II). Specifically, those respondents who perceive the event portrayal as fair were much more in favour of hosting the events than other groups of respondents. Residents’ perception of the event portrayal in the local media was not found to be significantly related to event support and therefore this predictor was eliminated from the model. The inclusion of fairness perception of event portrayal in the media improved the model’s 2 2 log likelihood significantly from 267.629 to 231.950 with a p-value of , 0.001. More importantly, statistical results showed that removing this predictor from the model would have a significant effect on the predictive ability of the model. In other words, fairness perception was a more crucial predictor than residents’ beliefs of the event portrayal in the local media (i.e. whether the media coverage is positive or negative). Unfortunately there are no other known studies to compare these results with, suggesting the need for more research into the influence of the media for understanding residents’ support for mega sport event hosting. At this juncture, it is important to point out that not all people may be influenced by the media in the same way (Falkheimer, 2007), providing a range of possible research

Support for the 2012 Olympic Games







Odds ratio

Dependent variable


estimate (





x 2

(exp b)

Residents’ support of event development





Event portrayal (positively) Neutral Negatively Do not know Portrayal fairness (yes) No Do not know




















Table II. Logistic regression results for residents’ support of event developments














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avenues at a micro or “intrinsic” level (Faulkner and Tideswell, 1997). Marketing and

psychology researchers have consistently shown that message framing effects can differ

in their persuasiveness (Donovan and Jalleh, 1999; Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran, 2004;

Rothman and Salovey, 1997). One reason is that people differ in their level of involvement with an issue. Increased issue involvement is often found to be associated with detailed processing, whereas low issue involvement leads to simple inference making on the basis

of peripheral cues (Donovan and Jalleh, 1999; Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy, 1990). This

may lead to differential response to positive versus negative information. Another reason

is that people have varied levels of commitment to the target depicted in the media. Highly

committed individuals tend to show strong resistance to counter attitudinal information, whereas low-commitment people are likely to exhibit a greater amount of attitude change

in response to negative information (Ahluwalia et al., 2000). Others have also argued that

the relative effectiveness of negative versus positive messages depends upon the individual’s processing motivation as well as familiarity with the target (Ahluwalia, 2002; Shiv et al., 2004). The present research acknowledges that the effects of media framing on residents’ perceptions can be moderated by these factors. However, given this is one of the first studies to examine the media framing effects from the residents’ perspective, it was

not the authors’ intention to investigate these individual elements or any specific content of the media coverage. The goal was to gain an overall understanding of whether residents’ support of the event is a function of their exposure to the media.

5. Conclusion and implications The paper has emphasised the need to include residents’ perceptions into a “triple bottom line” approach to measuring the impacts of mega-sporting events, and in particular, Olympic Games. Hosting Olympic Games events can provide positive economic, social and environmental benefits to host countries and their residents. The paper has outlined the first stage of a longitudinal study in the South West of England which will be repeated before and after the hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The paper also outlines an investigation into the role and influence of media on overall residents’ support for hosting a mega sporting event. On the whole, the findings are in line with the marketing and communication literature and support our proposition that mass media frames the processing and interpretation of information associated with the events. Specifically, media coverage of the 2012 Games in the local media appears to offer an explanation of residents’ support toward hosting the event and the development associated with this. Noticeably, our

results demonstrate that whether residents perceive the event portrayal as fair or unfair significantly influence their supportive behaviour. Stated differently, regardless of how the events are represented in the local media (i.e. positive, negative or neutral), as long as the residents perceive such portrayal as fair, their intention to support the event and associated event developments increases. One possible explanation is that people appreciate honest and truthful information, even though it may be negative. Similar to a situation of a public relations crisis

or a political marketing campaign where transparency is essential, perhaps residents

consider news that covers both positive and negative event information as unbiased.

A negative news report might have even generated a belief that the event organisation

or policy makers know the problem beforehand and are willing to acknowledge it publicly. Thus, the question of intentional deception might dissipate while perception

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of sincerity ensues and willingness to support follows. Meanwhile, the value of fair competition and integrity inherent in the Olympic Games might have resonated with respondents. As such, this value might have been reflected in people’s expectation of communication agents that report information about the event. The important implication derived from this finding is that while it is possible for the media to promote certain opinions over others by selecting and increasing the salience of some aspects of the event, the public would value a truthful and fair representation of a perceived reality. Therefore, event organisers and policy makers should work closely with the mass media to openly communicate issues surrounding the event. Residents’ existing knowledge and belief of the events could be another reason why positive or negative event portrayal did not have had a significant effect on their supporting behaviour. Personal experience at prior events or information gained from other sources (e.g. word of mouth communications, event campaign advertisement) might have created an entrenched event schema that already resides in memory. For example, residents might have seen the same events being held by other cities as well as the subsequent economic and social impact on the host nations. As a consequence of this learning, people might have developed coping knowledge which enables them to recognise, analyse, interpret and evaluate the media’s persuasion attempts (Friestad and Wright, 1994). The existing schema acts as a filter to select information and organise interpretations. Thus, the impact of positive or negative information from media communication might have reduced as it might have been assimilated into people’s existing attitude toward the communicator’s topic. Nevertheless, our findings raise an interesting question: under what conditions will positive/negative event publicity update people’s existing schema and serve as an input for judgment? For example, severity of the issue may increase the weight people place on negative versus positive media coverage. Follow-up studies should isolate this factor and examine the impact of different levels of issue severity on people’s supporting behaviour. Similarly, our paper has suggested that residents’ commitment toward the events may be an important moderator of residents’ response to event portrayal in the media. As an analogy, consumer researchers have shown that a committed individual can resist information effectively that is likely to induce switching behaviour (Ahluwalia et al., 2000). Thus, residents’ commitment may play a critical role in determining attitude strength and behaviour intention. Moreover, message framing literature demonstrates that negatively framed messages are more persuasive than positively framed messages when individuals have high issue involvement (Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy, 1990). Taken together, future research may consider the examination of involvement, commitment, and even emotional attachment to the event as moderating variables on residents’ perceptions formation. A limitation of our findings must be acknowledged. It is unclear how much positive or negative media coverage the residents have been exposed to. Residents’ perceptions of event portrayal may change with their deeper interaction with the event and media communications, and perceptions may differ when reinforced over time. Without controlling for the amount of exposure, it would be difficult to ascertain the extent to which media coverage frames residents’ perceptions. One possible solution is to employ experimental studies, where exposure to media communications can be controlled and other variables can be introduced systematically. With careful design of the experimental stimuli, it would be possible to establish a causal relationship

Support for the 2012 Olympic Games





between media coverage, perceptions of event-related issues, and residents’ support. In addition, the present research did not measure per se residents’ attitudes toward the event, but use their intention to support the event developments as a surrogate to the attitudinal construct. Thus, future research may consider other instruments that directly measure the attitudinal construct. Finally, media communications contains many individual elements, such as the news content, peripheral cues, and spokesperson used. Given that each of these elements may exert differential influence on persuasiveness of the message frames, investigation of their individual effect is warranted.

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Corresponding author Brent W. Ritchie can be contacted at:

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