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The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, during Nazi Germany, was well known to be the earliest case of sportwashing

Sportswashing is the practice of an individual, group, corporation, or nation-state using a major or prestigious international sport to improve its reputation, through hosting a sporting event, the purchase or sponsorship of sporting teams, or by participation in the sport itself. At nation-state level, sportswashing has been used to direct attention away from a poor human rights record and corruption scandals within local government. While at the individual or corporate level sportswashing is used to cover up and direct away attention from said person's or company's vices, crimes, or scandals. Sportswashing has been called a form of whitewashing.


President Vladimir Putin holding the FIFA World Cup Trophy at a pre-tournament ceremony in Moscow on 9 September 2017

At the nation-state level, sportswashing has been described as part of a nation's soft power.[1][2][3][4] Russia's hosting of the 2018 FIFA World Cup has been cited as an example, as the country's global reputation was low due to its foreign policy and the event led to the stoppage of discussions related to it, and were instead focused on how successful the World Cup was and how friendly the Russian people were.[5]

People from nations accused of sportswashing often argue that they simply want to enjoy sporting events in their home nations and that sporting boycotts and event re-location are both unfair on sporting fans and ineffective in changing government policy.[6]

Companies that have been accused of sportswashing include Ineos, who became the main sponsor of the cycling's Team Sky in 2019, which lead to it being renamed Team Ineos and later the Ineos Grenadiers,[7] and Arabtec, a company from the UAE who sponsored Manchester City F.C.[8]

Sportswashing is considered a potentially costly form of propaganda. For example, In March 2021 human rights organization Grant Liberty said that Saudi Arabia alone has spent at least $1.5 billion on alleged sportswashing activities.[9][10]


Chelsea playing against Arsenal at Baku Olympic Stadium during the UEFA Europa League Final on 29 May 2019

Corporate sponsorship sportwashing[edit]





Football/soccer tournaments[edit]

Russia handing over the symbolic relay baton for the hosting rights of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar in June 2018



Formula One[edit]
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Lewis Hamilton, the winner of 2014 Russian Grand Prix
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev awarding the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix trophy to race winner Valtteri Bottas
Motorcycle Grand Prix[edit]

Olympic Games[edit]

Siegfried Eifrig carrying the 1936 Summer Olympics Flame at the end of the relay

Other events[edit]

Individual sportwashing[edit]


Police officers guarding a barbed wire perimeter around Eden Park near Kingsland railway station in New Zealand during 1981 South African rugby tour.

See also[edit]


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