Don’t think of Saudi Arabia getting the 2034 World Cup as a win for sportswashing

Don't think of Saudi Arabia getting the 2034 World Cup as a win for sportswashing

All of these people agonizing over sportswashing, myself included, need to drop it.

At this point, the Saudis are operating unencumbered, and its apparent shoo-in bid for the 2034 World Cup is further evidence of that. The Australia football association withdrew its bid for the cup at the 11th hour, and with no other countries meeting the Oct. 31 deadline, the host duties default to Saudi Arabia.

Considering FIFA has no moral qualms with human rights violations, the decision is essentially a formality, but people aren’t stupid enough to believe sports organizations or countries are on the up-and-up because of a flawless opening ceremony. If anything, the public relations ploys are backfiring.

From Beijing’s draconian COVID policies, to Sochi eradicating stray dogs, to Qatar’s worker mistreatment, World Cup coverage hasn’t been flattering. I mean, who would’ve predicted that inviting a bunch of objective, foreign journalists to countries short on them would result in unfavorable press?

I have yet to see people, who aren’t being paid in blood money, praise Saudi Arabia or Qatar or China or Russia for any of the international competitions they’ve hosted in recent years. If anything, the proceedings merely reminded the world at large of the very real, very depressing status quo of Earth’s wealthiest dictatorships.

The idea that you can wash away public perception with a beautifully produced spectacle is asinine. What happens when you combine something dirty with something clean? If you throw piss-soaked drawers in a basket full of clean clothes, is the sullied pair of underwear clean by association, or does the entire hamper now need to be rewashed?

The Saudis aren’t sprucing up their reputation, but rather dragging the rest of the world down to their level. The sole byproduct is an astronomical surge in cynicism. When Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup, it was met with overwhelming outrage and claims of corruption.

Fast forward 13 years, and the general response is resignation. It’s as if sports fans have collectively accepted that one friend, who is universally hated, as part of the clique because he has a great party house and an even better coke connect.

“Yes, we all despise Hugh, but no one else has a big enough space to host, and he’s the only one who still does blow with regularity. It’s either Hugh, or risk snorting a bunch of fentanyl at Larry’s tiny-ass condo.”

The main reason Saudi Arabia and these other problematic countries “win” bids for prestigious tournaments is no one else wants to do it. Any population not being fed state-run propaganda knows the requirements for an Olympics or World Cup — millions, billions spent on infrastructure that will be swiftly abandoned after the final whistle — outweigh the benefits.

The depressing counter to that is the onus and cost of preparation falls to underserved populations or outsourced labor, with very little compensation. They, in turn, become part of the narrative for the duration of the games, yet are forgotten after the trophy presentation, if not before. It’s awful and has the opposite effect of sports washing. (Sports staining? I don’t know. Feels like there’s a more creative turn of cliche that’s escaping me at the moment.)

Eschewing an opportunity to host is a better indication of a country’s prowess than spending a couple year’s GDP on a vanity project. So, yeah, let short-sighted presidents, prime ministers, and dictators take turns hosting and spending gobs of money in a fruitless pursuit of integrity.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.