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Forget ‘sportswashing’: Qatar 2022 is about military might and hard sports power | Barney Ronay

By Barney Ronay

14 Oct 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

A Guardian columnist argues that this weaponized World Cup is not about Qatar being liked. Rather, it's a vast geopolitical security operation.

We need a new word for this thing. Psychologists have sometimes used the phrase “semantic satiation” to describe the process where saying the word “woodpecker” 20 times in a row, or sitting in a circle reciting the phrase “straight-leg easy-fit chinos” will eventually strip those sounds of any meaning, as though the entire concept of straight-leg easy-fit chinos has suddenly ceased to exist.

Something like this has happened to the word “sportswashing”. This was always a hopeful coinage, adopted on the hoof to describe governments or other entities that use elite sport as a propaganda tool. Years of heavy use, first by Azerbaijani human rights activists, then Amnesty International, then by the news and sports pages, have left it looking a little baggy.

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