Growth of Political Relations or Sportswashing? The Nuances of Sports as Soft Diplomacy

20 February 2024, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


The use of sports as soft diplomacy is an effective tool for political persuasion, but there has also been the rise in sportswashing. When authoritarian regimes, host international sporting events, they utilize the international media coverage to increase their prestige and finances. They manipulate public perceptions to develop a positive international image despite their political misdeeds, such as human rights violations or government corruption. Through a focus on Ping Pong Diplomacy in the 1970s, China's and the NBA in the 1990s-2000s, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and the Saudi Arabian backed LIV golf league, there becomes evident negative implications, such as increases in human right abuses and political corruption, but also positives, such as bridging cultural gaps and strengthening relations. By understanding the connection between sports and diplomacy, society can use sports and sporting events to encourage greater respect for human rights, build cultural understanding, and grow positive political relations.


Sports Diplomacy
U.S.-China Relations
U.S.-Saudi Arabian Relations
Soft Power Diplomacy
Political Tensions
Athletic Empathy
Bridging Cultural Gaps
Human Rights
Political Corruption
Authoritarian Regimes


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