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A History of Sports and Dictators

Long before the inception of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, sports have been used to test foreign policies, thaw diplomatic tensions, and broadcast political and social messaging. Yet over the past decade, however, there has been a growing and alarming trend of authoritarian regimes weaponizing sports as a form of reputation laundering and to distract from human rights abuses, a process known as sportswashing.

This four-part series will delve into the history of sportswashing, analyzing its ancient roots, its popularity among dictators in the 20th century, and its modern evolution.