Ben Byars | 2024 I.S. Symposium

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Name: Ben Byars
Title: Playing for Power: Evaluating Sportswashing with a Case Studies Approach
Major: Global and International Studies
Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Lantis

This study sets out to investigate the debate about the real and perceived effects of sportswashing—the practice in which a state uses sports to deflect attention away from human rights violations in order to launder their reputation. Specifically, this study raises the following question: Does government investment in sportswashing result in economic and political gains or losses? Informed by the scholarship on soft power theory and sports diplomacy, I hypothesized that if a government invests in sportswashing, then this will lead this state to gain economically and politically. In particular, this study measured economic and political outcomes by examining changes in foreign direct investment (FDI) and arms imports. The case studies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia provided mixed results that do not provide clear evidence that government investment in sportswashing leads to universal effects. While my hypothesis did not appear to be supported by the data, the findings from the case studies still provide important insights about sportswashing and the limits of soft power in twenty-first century global politics.

Posted in Symposium 2024 on April 22, 2024.