Sports Weaponization By Western Media – OpEd


As the Paris Olympics draws closer, we will see not only sporting news dominate the headlines, but also the inevitable nationalistic reporting to accompany it. It is well known that sport, perhaps more than any other form of social activity in the modern world, facilitates flag-waving and provides insights into national rivalries, socio-cultural politics, economics and a host of other impacts at the individual, collective, national and international levels. 

The opening shots on what we can expect from western media can be seen from a news report by Australia’s proclaimed number one commercial news site.

The story from the World Aquatic Games Championship now recently concluded in Fukuoka  had the headline title: 

“American broadcasters change World Championships medal tally to show America on top, despite less gold medals than Australia”

According to the report, eagle-eyed fans noticed a humiliating image detail that proves “America can’t handle the truth about Australia’s [apparent] swimming dominance”. The US television image provided by American broadcaster NBC showed the medal tally in order of total medals, rather than the traditional ordering of gold-silver-bronze. This kept Team USA on top of the tally, rather than the Australians.

Screenshot of medal count

It was noted that NBC had begun the event using the traditional ordering, but then switched to total medals when it became apparent that the Americans kept losing out to the Australians.

Following the initial posting of the story, it does not appear in the Twitter account of the news story reporter himself as well as is not easily available from the news source archives. 

So much for the claim of the website that it provides “open, fair and balanced coverage” ( 

An Australian fan critical of the move by American broadcasters noted that “even when (the Americans) are not number one, they can confidently rely on the fact that most of their population isn’t data literate.”

But it is not only Americans who are not data literate. Australians are too.

Cancelling China’s Championship Performance

The top nation in the world championship – an aquatic one, and not just swimming – is China, not the US or Australia. This is news that is hard to find in the Australian or any of the other western media. 

According to the official competition website, China had 20 gold and a total of 37 medals. Australia had 15 gold and a total of 25 medals whilst the US had 4 gold and a total of 37 medals (

It is clear that – even in sports – Western media is not able to engage in honest and fair reporting when it comes to news about China. As noted by social media commentators following the competition 

When the west is not on top, sportsmanship goes out of the windows. No media will cover the results

China? no wonder i have to search for the event medal count. Literally no ones in the West reporting it.

Thank you! This is by far the only place I can find the result right now. When the USA is not the No.1, no media is interested.

I think here even Biden can not form another coalition to contain the Chinese medals 

When usa not in a dominate fashion the media go to sleep

China has 20 gold. It’s not a good sign. Some of items that China is good at will be cut in the future and add white dominant items.

Western Media Reporting Past and Present

The truth about Western media today on sports or any other subject matter is really not much different from 140 years ago. 

In 1883, John Swinton, an American journalist and newspaper publisher who was the chief editorial writer of the New York Times in the 1860s delivered at a press dinner the speech he is most famous for today:

There is no such a thing in America as an independent press, unless it is out in country towns. You are all slaves. You know it, and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to express an honest opinion. If you expressed it, you would know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid $150 for keeping honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for doing similar things. If I should allow honest opinions to be printed in one issue of my paper, I would be like Othello before twenty-four hours: my occupation would be gone. The man who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the street hunting for another job. The business of a New York journalist is to distort the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to villify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread, or for what is about the same — his salary. You know this, and I know it; and what foolery to be toasting an “Independent Press”! We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are jumping-jacks. They pull the string and we dance. Our time, our talents, our lives, our possibilities, are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.

Western media practitioners should reread Swinton’s speech and other work again and again before they come out with any story.

Lim Teck Ghee

Lim Teck Ghee PhD is a Malaysian economic historian, policy analyst and public intellectual whose career has straddled academia, civil society organisations and international development agencies. He has a regular column, Another Take, in The Sun, a Malaysian daily; and is author of Challenging the Status Quo in Malaysia.

2 thoughts on “Sports Weaponization By Western Media – OpEd

  • August 5, 2023 at 6:14 am

    An important contribution to the weaponization debate.
    Western media weaponizes everything — it is a part of the western notion of their rules based international order dedicated inflexibly to the maintenance of western imperialist hegemony.

  • August 6, 2023 at 1:11 am

    Thank you Dr Lim Teck Ghee for this insightful article. As a decolonial scholar, I consider this Western media manipulation of reportage of a sporting event as yet another instance of the enduring legacy of European colonialism. The rhetoric of Anglophile dominance over the rest of humanity may have changed, but the logic of the colonial matrix of power remains intact. Speaking about media ‘doctoring’ of sporting events, I am reminded of the way the Nazi press reported on the success of the “Black auxiliaries”, the ‘colourful’ lexicon for the African American athletes and the attempt to gloss over the remarkable feat of Jesse Owen who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The African American dominance in the Track and Field events at these games did not sit well with the Third Reich’s discourse of ‘Aryan’ superiority.


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