First sportswashing, now... parkwashing?

The term “sportswashing” refers to the PR tactic used by oppressive regimes to use international sports competitions as a way of glossing over their human rights violations. During the Cold War, the Soviets regularly dominated the Olympics because the government paid to train athletes year round, while Westerners were either self funded or financed by donations. Russia and China hosting both Summer and Winter Olympics over the past two decades drew accusations of sportswashing. Most recently, it was applied to Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup, and using slave labor to build their stadiums.

Similarly, I’m sure we’ve all noticed how many parks have popped over the past decade in countries with bad global reputations. I have just coined the term “parkwashing”. Autocracies building theme park resorts to attract foreign tourists. China is the king of this, what with two Disney resorts, a Universal resort, several Legolands, multiple Six Flags planned, and dozens of regional parks, plus the unique Chimelong group. But you could argue that China was already a major tourist destination, and these are just as much for the benefit of the citizens who might not be able to afford a weeklong family vacation to Anaheim or LBV.
The closest competitor in this field is the UAE, which inspite of its small size, has multiple resorts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, including their own SeaWorld! Even Universal was going to be part of the abandoned “Dubailand” mega project.
Now Saudi Arabia wants to get in on the action. Like China, they’ve also courted Six Flags for a couple of regional parks. Last year, an amusement park being built on a massive decommissioned oil rig was announced. And just last week, the target of this rant was announced:


I’m not getting what you’re ranting about.

You don’t want other countries to build theme parks? You don’t want US-based companies to expand internationally?



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In this case I believe he means specifically countries with records of human rights abuses using the shiny family friendliness of theme parks as a way to help improve their international image, without having to make real change re those abuses.


Thank you for helping to make his point clear!


I remeber the term sportswashing from the world cup which is the only reason why I am familiar.


Sorry, i didnt notice you had replied. I was gethering links.

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Thank you for the assist. I dont always get around to replying promptly.

Like i said, i didnt want to start anything about China or Singapore. Thats a legitimate debate between authority and liberty. My contempt lies with absolute monarchies where slavery is still legal, women are an inferior species, and gays are put to death. Yet we tolerate them because oil controls the world.

Im glad Universal Studios Dubailand was a colossal failure. But Six Flags, SeaWorld, and Merlin are more than willing to sell out to the highest bidder.

Are you Erik that’s friends with Mike? If so then you know my feelings on anything to do with the Qiddiya developments. They’ll be a no-go forever, I’m afraid.

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Mike who? I dont know what you think, but youre free to tell me in a private message