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SXSW 2021

How "Sportswashing" is Changing the Game

Dictatorial regimes from Russia to Saudi Arabia to China are investing millions of dollars into hosting major sporting events and investing in teams in free societies, in an effort to improve their human rights images internationally and pivot the global eye away from their repressive measures. Countries like Saudi Arabia and China have been leading these investments and bids in global sporting events to whitewash crimes. Panelists will examine just how authoritarian regimes are using this method of "sportswashing" to divert attention away from their reprehensible human rights records, and the trends and implications of these soft power, high-dollar tactics.

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  1. How does investing in teams through "sportswashing" serve as soft power, high-dollar tactic to improve the global image of dictatorial regimes?
  2. How does engaging w/authoritarian regimes through sportswashing prohibit fostering in them an appreciation for democratic institutions & human rights?
  3. How do authoritarian regimes manipulate public allegiance to sports, exploiting these sentiments, and how can fans denounce this practice?



Michelle Gulino, International Legal Associate, Human Rights Foundation

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