‘A hapless attempt at swimming’: media representations of Eric Moussambani

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Nauright, John and Magdalinski, Tara (2003) ‘A hapless attempt at swimming’: media representations of Eric Moussambani Critical Arts: Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies, 17 (1-2). pp. 106-122. ISSN 0256-0046

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Abstract

One of the most powerful images to emerge from the pool at the Sydney 2000 Olympics was that of Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea who swam his heat of the 100-meter freestyle alone after the other two swimmers in his heat were disqualified. Moussambani completed the distance over one minute slower than eventual gold medallist Pieter van den Hoogenband. The media coverage of Moussambani's performance illustrates that the discourses of colonialism, paternalism, and racial stereotyping remain central in the modern Olympic movement. This paper analyses media reports of Moussambani and identifies three main frames used to contextualize his performance at the Olympics. We situate Moussambani's swim within a broader framework that reveals the mechanisms used to display African bodies for the European gaze as well as the paternalist Olympic discourse that seeks to universalize Western sporting practices within a global culture that privileges Western cultural and economic practices.  Eric Moussambani is a swimmer. His event is the 100-meter freestyle. Evidently freestyle is a loose term. He comprises half his nation's entire swimming team and one quarter of its entire Olympic contingent. He is from the Olympic powerhouse nation of Equatorial Guinea. Where? You know, the small country in the Gulf of Guinea where Africa's West coast elbows south … no? Not ringing any bells? Well, with some deductive reasoning, one can conclude he is from a warm country, probably close to the equator, but there are still some questions about this guy. Sounds like a long distance runner, maybe a marathoner, or perhaps a boxer. But a swimmer? (Michael, 2000).

Item Type: Journal article
Subjects: L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology > L311 Sport and Leisure
T000 Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian languages, literature and related subjects > T500 African studies > T530 African society & culture studies
DOI (a stable link to the resource): 10.1080/02560240385310081
Depositing User: Converis
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2014 03:01
Last Modified: 20 May 2015 15:04
URI: http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/id/eprint/11940

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