Loughborough University
Sport Mega-Events and Soft Power- Exploring the Cases of Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain.pdf (11.94 MB)

Sport mega-events and soft power: exploring the cases of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

Download (11.94 MB)
posted on 2019-10-09, 13:55 authored by Laila El-Dabt

This thesis aims to explore the role of sport mega-events (SMEs) in advancing the soft power of emerging states. Unlike previous literature which has focused on Brazil, Russia, India, China or South Africa (the BRICS), this study will focus on the three Gulf states of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain as they have adopted unique hosting strategies which remain relatively under examined throughout scholarship. Worth noting here is that each emirate within the UAE is governed by a separate entity. Thus, this study will examine the sport strategies of Dubai and Abu Dhabi independently, as they have been the primary drivers of the UAE’s overall sporting industry.

Prior to exploring each of the aforementioned cases, this thesis will begin by clarifying the concept of soft power and proposing a model which illustrates how soft power can be advanced through the use of nation branding and public diplomacy initiatives. Upon doing so, literature linking previous sports mega-events to each of the aforementioned concepts will be examined to exemplify the way in which SMEs have proven to serve as effective soft power tools in the past.

Based on these theoretical understandings, a pragmatic approach was adopted to assess the cases of Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. First, a document analysis of national visions and sport strategies as well as semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders was used to understand the pre-determined goals and strategies of each nation. Second, an observational analysis was conducted to evaluate the current contexts in which SMEs are being staged, and finally, an online survey was issued to unveil the current perceptions that exist in the minds of foreign audiences. By examining the congruencies between nationalistic goals, current contexts and foreign perceptions, a comprehensive overview of each nation/emirate’s soft power strategy is provided.

After comparing the strategies adopted by each state, it was found that all four cases have leveraged the use of sport mega-events to varying degrees to fulfil soft power-related ambitions. Qatar is explicitly using SMEs as a nation branding and public diplomacy tool to advance its soft power. Similarly, Abu Dhabi is primarily using SMEs to emerge from the shadows of its local neighbours Dubai and compete with rising neighbours Qatar. Dubai however, has previously used sport mega-events to help position itself on the international front, but after cementing its global reputation, has adopted a more inward-looking strategy. Finally, while Bahrain aspires to extend its influence in a manner similar to that of its neighbours and host large-scale tournaments, its limited economic resources have pushed the nation into adopting an intrinsic sporting strategy. Each of these cases provides a unique lens as to how sport mega-events are used to advance the soft power of emerging states during their transitional stage and are highly reliant on hard power resources.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

Rights holder

© Laila El-Dabt

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Richard Giulianotti ; Jamie Kenyon

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

This submission includes a signed certificate in addition to the thesis file(s)

  • I have submitted a signed certificate

Usage metrics

    Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences Theses


    Ref. manager