Posts Tagged ‘Adam Scharpf’

Sports washing: autocracies can afford more big events

January 10, 2023

I have been paying attention to the phenomenon of sports washing on several occasions in the past. See e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/. It pleases me to see that the Economist on 19 November 2022 underpinned this concern by showing that over the last years autocratic regimes have increased their share of the pie.

According to data compiled by Adam Scharpf, of the University of Copenhagen, and two colleagues, the share of international sporting events hosted by autocracies fell from 36% in 1945-88 to 15% in 1989-2012. Since then, it has rebounded to 37%. Although the total number of democracies in the world has also declined from the post-cold-war high, only a few recent autocratic hosts are lapsed democracies.

Ironically, this trend stems largely from democratic decision-making. Studies have shown that big sporting events tend to be bad deals for host countries. Cities have to build costly stadiums that are rarely used afterwards, and that fail to spark economic development in surrounding areas. As a result, governments accountable to their taxpayers have become less enthusiastic about being the host. This year’s Winter Olympics wound up in Beijing almost by default, after all four cities in democratic countries that had bid backed out. The only alternative was Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Autocrats, in contrast, are free to squander public funds. The main threat they face as hosts is that protesters or the press will highlight human-rights violations. But rather than encouraging reform, the international spotlight seems to lead such regimes to become even more repressive in the run-up to sporting events.

Using “repression scores” calculated by other scholars that measure how much violence states inflict on their citizens, Mr Scharpf has shown that hosts of the Olympics and football tournaments tend to crack down two years before opening ceremonies. Once the world starts watching, they ease off. All this is illustrated by graphics.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2022/11/17/international-sporting-events-are-increasingly-held-in-autocracies