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The Story of the Bahrain GP (or Why Formula One Should Flex It’s Political Muscle)

April 13, 2012

Formula One is a massively popular sport. It has a season spanning about eight months and 20 races, and in 2008 had 600 million people watching every race. That’s a pretty sizeable impact, by my standards.

It so happens that one of the races this year is taking place at Bahrain. Bahrain, you may remember had massive protests last year, where protesters demanded greater freedom and a greater respect for human rights standards. Following a really harsh crackdown by the government, the protests have turned into anti-government and pro-democracy movements.

In the background of all this, F1 has scheduled itself a race to be held at Bahrain. It was cancelled last year due to the protests which erupted a month or so before the race was scheduled to be held. Following that, they decided to go ahead with it this year. I don’t know if Bernie Ecclestone is evil, misinformed, or just an idiot, but he cannot be oblivious to the situation in Bahrain. He insists that “nothing is happening”, and he knows people who live there and it’s all “quiet and peaceful”. Unfortunately, things really haven’t been all that peaceful, but Bernie has shrugged off responsibility, claiming that the decision to call of the race rests with the organizers of the track.

Oh, right. Well that ought to do it then. We just have to get word to the organizers of the track. Wait, what’s that you say? The CEO of Bahrain International Circuit is Crown Prince Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the son of the King of Bahrain? Well, that’s a bit of a shame.

Mike Lawrence has written a series of wonderful articles expounding exactly why F1 shouldn’t be going to Bahrain. He says that this isn’t a political problem, but a problem of putting the drivers, and the teams at risk. With public outcry about the race coming to town, it will be pretty hard to guarantee that nothing will happen to any member of any team, and that’s a pretty large number of people to guarantee absolute safety for.

While I completely agree with him about the safety, I do think this should be a political problem. Bernie Ecclestone has said that they don’t tamper with internal politics of countries, and that is as it should be. If a country is decided if they would like to be secular or not, or if they are legalizing homosexuality, then that’s entirely their own issue. F1 should stay out of it. But on the other hand, the world cannot sit by and watch people getting murdered, and hide  behind the screen of ‘internal politics’. That’s not being a nice person. They should take a stand. I would say that it is their obligation to take a stand.

One cannot claim to be a sports person, or a scientist, or a businessman, or anything and then claim that it is what they do and hence they are exempt from social obligations. Mark Webber (racing for Red Bull Racing) has it right. He has voiced his concerns about going to Bahrain, although he is still going since he is bound by contract. But sports people have consciences too, as do scientists and businessman. And taxi drivers, and lawyers and doctors and pilots and whoever. I figure the only way that human society isn’t going to hell, is if we pitch in and try not to kill each other.

Formula One, being such a massively popular sport, should be leading the voices criticizing the Bahrain government for acting as it has. But unfortunately it seems that money (once again) beats conscience.

Let’s hope that the race doesn’t happen.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Psy permalink
    April 13, 2012 8:52 pm

    He’s neither oblivious nor evil, he’s just concerned about the economics of the situation. Which some might say is evil.

    • Kitchi permalink*
      April 13, 2012 9:25 pm

      Yeah, I realize. I think it’s okay to put economics before politics, as long as people’s lives aren’t at danger. In this case, it’s his own people’s lives in danger as well.

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