BLAST's ties with the UAE government has caused concern close to home

Danish gov's BLAST investment under fire

BLAST's partnership with Abu Dhabi Gaming has been reminiscent of the company's universally condemned deal with NEOM in 2020.

Over the weekend, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation released an article highlighting the highly questionable relationship between CS:GO tournament organizer BLAST, Abu Dhabi Gaming, and the Danish government. The author raised major concerns over the government's partial ownership of BLAST, and how Danish taxpayer funds are ultimately being used to assist an authoritarian regime.

The primary point of contention in the Danish Broadcasting Corporation's report is that the Danish government, who own roughly 20 to 30 percent of BLAST through a state investment fund known as the Vækstfonden, are implicitly supporting an authoritarian regime with public funds. This conclusion is drawn from BLAST's three-year-long deal with Abu Dhabi Gaming, a "government-led initiative" of the United Arab Emirates, a country that has been widely criticized for its frequent abuses of human rights.

The article highlights critiques from a number of different sources in Denmark, including representatives from Amnesty International Denmark and the opposition party Enhedslisten. Both parties raised concerns regarding the UAE's intent to distract from its human rights abuses with sporting events known as "sportswashing", while simultaneously denouncing the Danish government for being complicit in such an arrangement with public funds.

The Vækstfonden provided a response on the issue, stating that the fund does not comment publicly on specific deals made by companies that receive investments, but if something were to come to their attention there would be a private inquiry with the company in order to clarify the details.

This is not the first instance in which BLAST has been publicly criticized for its involvement with authoritarian regimes. In 2019, the tournament organizer held their Pro Series Global Finals in Riffa, Bahrain, a country that has a frequent record of human rights violations. Just a year later, the tournament organizer announced a landmark deal with NEOM, a smart city project in Saudi Arabia, which faced considerable backlash due to the country's horrendous human rights record which includes forced evictions of indigenous tribes as part of the NEOM project. After two weeks of highly public fallout, the tournament organizer ultimately backed out of the NEOM deal.

Since 2018, the Vækstfonden has provided BLAST with roughly 74.5 million DKK (roughly 10.6 million USD). With this issue being raised by both Amnesty International Denmark as well as an opposition party, it remains to be seen what changes the Danish government will make with the Vækstfonden's investments, if any.

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