Road to World Cup 2022 – Deconstructing the Multidimensional Nature of Sport Politics in the Gulf Monarchies

Road to World Cup 2022 – Deconstructing the Multidimensional Nature of Sport Politics in the Gulf Monarchies

When: 30 November 2021, 14.00 – 16.30 (CET)

The Gulf region provides a whole bunch of examples of how leaderships strategically engage in global sports. For instance, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Saudi Arabia organize sports mega events such as the Formula One races and boxing fights. Additionally, Gulf state organizations are heavily involved in sport business through large-scale investments in the French football club Paris St. Germain by Qatar or British football clubs such as Manchester City and Newcastle United by the UAE and Saudi Arabia respectively. The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is the most recent climax in a series of events and initiatives related to sport politics in which the Gulf Arab region has emerged as an international center of gravity.

Against this backdrop, CARPO’s second virtual Research Forum (CRF) looks at the multi-layered impact of sport politics in the Gulf region. Using a multidimensional perspective, we consider not only outward-oriented issues such as sportswashing or -branding but also its inward-oriented implications on state-society relations in times of socio-economic transformation.

Together with scholars from the Gulf region and Europe we will highlight some of these aspects: The political trend to use sport and sport events as a soft power measure and foreign policy instrument of development cooperation, for instance. On the societal level, guiding themes and questions include sport’s impact on national identity, culture, women empowerment, lifestyle, and activism among others.

Overall, the CRF wants to shed more light on the multidimensional role sport plays in the Gulf region by highlighting obstacles and grievances but also chances and opportunities of future social and political developments.


14:00-14:10 Introduction

14:10-14:45 Online Keynote: One Year Ahead of the World Cup in Qatar – Deconstructing Sport Politics in the Gulf states

Danyel Reiche, Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University Qatar

Mirjam Schmidt, Project Manager, CARPO

15:00-16:20 Online Session: Sports, Politics & Social Transformation the Gulf Arab States
The session intends to uncover the multiple and complex dynamics of global sports politics and the involvement of the Gulf states. It aims to discuss the nature of respective policies and debates about ‘sportswashing’, the role of development cooperation and other underlying motives. In addition to this outward-oriented perspective, the session further deals with the interconnections between fundamental social transformations inside the Gulf societies and the rising relevance of sports on a societal level. In all Gulf states, socio-economic transformation remains a key challenge in times of energy diversification, the economic repercussions of COVID-19, and the need to create jobs for the young parts of the population. Against this backdrop, sport forms a relevant element to promote entrepreneurship and job creation. Furthermore, sport creates a driver for social cohesion and identity constructions in times of rising geopolitical shifts. The session thus discusses the new relevance of sport as an integral part of the social transformation in the Gulf states.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University’s Baker Institute 
Kamilla Swart-ArriesAssociate Professor, College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University 
Ahmed al-Omran, Journalist and Political Analyst, Saudi Arabia 
Kristin Smith Diwan, Senior Resident Scholar, The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington

Sebastian Sons, Researcher, CARPO & Tobias Zumbrägel, Researcher, CARPO 

16:20-16:30 Concluding Remarks
The final session aims to draw conclusions and discuss future trends in sports in the Gulf monarchies.


For further questions, please contact

Allgemein, CARPO Research Forum