Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Compared with Athens in 2004, Beijing Is Under a Media Microscope for Environmental Issues

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

Beijing is not the first Olympic host city subjected to scrutiny of its air quality and pollution. In the months before the start of the 2004 Athens Olympics, that city’s notorious air pollution was the focus of some media coverage. But coverage of Athens was small compared to the attention focused on Beijing’s problems thus far. Coverage of Beijing’s environmental issues has been more than 10 times that of Athens’ in the seven months prior to each event, according to analysis by Dow Jones Insight of more than 2,000 mainstream media sources that were publishing during both time periods.

From January 1 through July 31, 2004, there were 353 documents mentioning environmental issues related to the Athens Games in these same newspapers, magazines and newswires. The number of documents increased steadily over the seven months but from a very small base of seven in January, peaking at 101 in July, the month before the Games.

In comparison, during the first seven months of 2008 (data are through July 28), there were 4,216 documents mentioning environmental issues related to Beijing as host city. Of these, 392 were in January with a general upward trend to a high of 876 documents in July.

The striking difference in coverage may be a reflection of growing worldwide concern over the state of the environment and the effects of global warming. In addition, environmental issues were almost a secondary concern prior to the 2004 Games. More attention was focused on domestic and international terrorism in Greece following the World Trade Center attack in September 2001 and the Madrid train bombings in March 2004. There were also worries that Athens wouldn’t have all of its facilities completed in time for the start of the Games. However none of these fears were realized as the Athens Games have been seen as a success.

Methodology: Analysis includes more than 2,000 English-language mainstream media sources which were publishing during both periods, the first seven months of 2004 and 2008.

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