Workshop 7 / GRM 2024
Gulf States’ Engagement with Sport: Domestic and Global Drivers


Over the past two decades, the Gulf States have become highly visible as investors, owners, sponsors, hosts, and participants in the governance of sports, while also aligning the domestic development of sports to projects of economic reform, diversification, and public wellbeing. The speed and scale of engagement with sport, coupled with the organization of mega-events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and Saudi investment in golf and soccer, have generated intense and often critical international interest in the Gulf States with pejorative labels such as ‘sports-washing’ becoming prevalent. Other approaches have focused on ‘soft power’ and ‘nation branding’ as explanatory tools that seek to fit the Gulf states into broader conceptual frameworks. The purpose of this workshop is to re-center the study of sports and the Gulf states and to identify and comparatively assess countrydistinctive and sport-specific approaches, commonalities, and patterns underlying the use of sports as a tool of domestic and/or foreign policy.




Smith Diwan

Senior Resident Scholar, The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Washington, D.C. Adjunct Professorial Lecturer,
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


Coates Ulrichsen

Fellow for the Middle East, Director, Political Economy of the Gulf Program,
James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy

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