Seminar with Adam Scharpf (GIGA)
Title of the presentation "International Sports Events, Media Attention, and Repression: Evidence from the 1978 FIFA World Cup"
How do international sports events shape repression in authoritarian host countries? International tournaments promise unique gains in political prestige through global media attention. However, autocrats must fear that foreign journalists will unmask their wrongdoings. We argue that autocracies solve this dilemma by strategically adjusting repression according to the spatial-temporal presence of international media. Using original, highly disaggregated data on the 1978 World Cup, we demonstrate that the Argentine host government largely refrained from repression during the tournament, but preemptively cleansed the streets beforehand. These adjustments specifically occurred around hotels reserved for foreign journalists. Additional tests demonstrate that: 1) before the tournament, repression turned increasingly covert, 2) during the tournament, targeting patterns mirrored the working shifts of foreign journalists, 3) after the tournament, regime violence again spiked in locations where international media had been present. Together, the paper highlights the human costs of mega-events, contradicting the common whitewashing rhetoric of functionaries
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