Philip Boit, Kenya’s first athlete in the 1998 Winter Olympics, has been made a celebrity of sorts by BBC—but if you can find the story that mentions him in The Guardian, headline “Olympic Committee aims to bar wild cards,” you can see he is looked at in a very different light. It is BBC that names Boit as the first Kenyan Winter Olympics athlete, The Guardian calls him “the Kenyan skier unfamiliar with snow.”
BBC interviewed Boit for their Sport Witness program that it says provides “inside and personal story of key moments from sporting history.” The first two thirds of the January 23 article has a lighthearted tone as it discusses how Boit became familiar with snow and even laughed at himself when he fell a bunch in training in Norway. He is praised for his vision and perseverance: “Some pundits said Nike was using Boit as a “marketing pawn,” but he quickly excelled at this tough endurance sport.” He is honored by the article’s eager tone as it discusses Boit’s future participation in the Winter Olympics.
The overall celebration of world cooperation that is the Olympics is reflected in the article. Boit is associated with Norwegian icon Bjorn Daehlie, an excellent cross-country skier, who expresses hope for Boit. Acknowledging the historical aspect of this situation is positive in a time of tension and anxiety over the Russian venue of the Winter Olympics, no?
The Guardian has a harsher tone as it discusses athletes they frame as ones who only contribute to the “renegade fun” of the Olympics—it focuses on the IOC wanting to minimize participation of athletes reflective of the likes Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards who did not excel in the ski jump at the ’98 Winter Olympics or “Eric “the Eel” Moussambani, who swam one of the slowest races in Olympic history at Sydney.”
The Guardian uses pessimistic phrases like “put an end to” participation in games that bring the world together—the athletes don’t come within seconds of the others so how could they possibly be worth encouraging and celebrating? Interestingly, IOC president said about “the Eel’s” race: “The public loved it, but I didn’t like it.” The article poses that these athletes besmirch the purity of the games as a showcase for pristine athleticism.
Is there not a larger picture to the methodology of the games themselves? It is a series of events revolving from one side of the world to the other can only do more to add cohesiveness to media coverage and broaden public perspectives. If the public is willing to rejoice over diversity, then I say that’s a win.