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7 Sep 2021

Amanda Davies & Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Saudi Arabia to host maiden F1 Grand Prix, but human rights abuses overshadow country's global sporting ambitions

........ But as Saudi Arabia emerges as a powerful stakeholder in global sport, the country's human rights record is being criticized.

In 2020, after the Saudi Arabian-backed consortium Public Investment Fund made a bid, with two other parties, to purchase English Premier League football club Newcastle United, activists accused the kingdom of "sportswashing" -- a phenomenon whereby corrupt or autocratic regimes invest in sports events to whitewash their international reputation. The consortium, including the Saudi PIF, ended up withdrawing its bid in July 2020, citing the prolonged process and global uncertainty.

Earlier this year, human rights group Grant Liberty estimated that Saudi Arabia has spent about $1.5 billion on "sportswashing" since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his Vision 2030 master plan, which aims to reduce the country's dependence on oil exports.