Sports mega-events and human rights


  • Daghan Irak
    University of Huddersfield

Daghan Irak - University of Huddersfield
Sports mega-events and human rights

It has been more than half a decade since modern sports have become a major industry and been completely dominated by the rules of free market capitalism. This entails major sports events such as the Olympic Games, men’s Football World Cup and Formula One that we call “sports mega-events” becoming commodities which sports governing organisations rely on financially. As well as event sponsorships, broadcasting rights’ sale is a crucial source of income for these bodies.
These mega-events are valuable for host nations, even though very few of them are actually profitable. On the contrary, most mega-events signify a major burden to the host nation’s public budget, whereas any potential profit often goes to the sports’ governing bodies. However, these events provide host nations with crucial soft power, which help these countries to gloss over any bad PR that they might have received in other domains. This phenomenon is called “sportswashing” and frequently used by autocratic governments of the world, often at the expense of public services that could be fulfilled by using the organisation budget. While protests occur before and during these events, host nations and governing bodies often take draconian measures to filter out dissident voices to ensure that these protests would not harm the financial value of the “product,” which is the mega-event.
In this talk, I will discuss the dynamics of sportswashing and how protest movements may take advantage of the “Streisand Effect” that is created by the organisers’ excessive reactions against the protesters.