The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Situational Crisis Communication and the COVID-19 Pandemic Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Wong, Donna and Meng-Lewis, Yue (2024). The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Situational Crisis Communication and the COVID-19 Pandemic Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Communication & Sport, 12(1) pp. 99–129.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/21674795231174188

Abstract

Affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were postponed for a year. While getting through with the organizing of an Olympic Games amid a global pandemic is seen as a success by many (‘The Good’), it was overshadowed by the relentless virus as the Games closed with a muted spectacle in 2021 (‘The Bad’). Pushing on with the Games after the postponement, at the height of the pandemic, has resulted in strong criticisms and caused damage to the organizers (‘The Ugly’). This study seeks to assess the crisis communication strategies implemented by the organizers as they navigated the capricious condition of trudging on with a pandemic era sport spectacle. Through examining the organizers’ crisis communications to the challenges that emerged and public reactions to the strategies, this study seeks to understand the outcome of the strategies on the organizational image and reputation. It also provides reflections on the management of the Games through the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, it is argued that the situational crisis communication theory offers a useful framework that can provide theoretical connections between crisis management in a sports mega-event and organizational response strategies.

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