Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix

Comment

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

The full horror of what has gone in in Bahrain in recent days has now emerged.

Reports have emerged detailing protesters being killed with live rounds and surgeons beaten for trying to treat the injured.

Foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country and some of those who bore witness to the government’s clamp-down were beaten as well.

This weekend’s GP2 Asia race meeting was cancelled. Ambulances that should have been on stand-by at the track were instead among those driving the government’s victim to hospitals by the hundreds.

It is easy to make arguments about ‘moral hypocrisy’, and point to questionable actions taken by other governments in countries that F1 visits.

But showing up in Bahrain and accepting their money to race days after the world has watched it murder its citizens would be unconscionable.

The difficulty in guaranteeing the safety and security of the teams’ employees and everyone else who travels with the F1 circus is a further concern.

With testing due to begin at the circuit on March 3rd the first staff will be scheduled to arrive in Bahrain next week.

The desire to ensure the smooth running of the race would likely provoke another wave of repression from the security forces.

Those with longer memories recall how Formula 1 continued racing in South Africa in the seventies and eighties long after most other sports, repulsed by the brutal and racist apartheid regime, boycotted the country.

This attracted little attention 30 years ago when F1 was far less popular. Today the eyes of the world are on whether F1 will again turn a blind eye to the plight of an oppressed people out of its eagerness to line its coffers.

It must not.

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

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341 comments on Bernie Ecclestone must cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix

  1. Daffid said on 18th February 2011, 11:10

    Whilst I don’t mind skipping Bahrain for the reasons mentioned – you’re right, it is easy to make arguments of moral hypocrisy, and its correct to.

    You’re turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses in China, Uigar and Tibet that dwarf those in Bahrain a thousand-fold. You’re ignoring countless murders perpetrated by Brazilian police. It’s common to cite South Africa, but everyone ignores that F1 went to Australia (admittedly not as an official part of the world championship)while it continued its ‘White Australia’ policy and continued to do so at championship level when deaths of Aboriginals in police custody reached epidemic levels (as a percentage of Aboriginal population). I’m sure those who would make comparisons with British behaviour in Northern Ireland. Etc. etc. etc.

    Simply because something’s been in the media doesn’t make it any worse. the only reason the Uigar civil war does not get on TV is that the Chinese won’t let reporters within a 1000 miles of the place. And probably because media moguls don’t want to anger a potential rich marketplace.

    I don’t mind if we never go to Bahrain again, I don’t mind if we launch a sporting boycott of half the planet, but let’s be consistent, and even if it’s a question of scale, Bahrain are still not the worst sinners in the F1 pool, that’s just the TV and Western politicians with vested interests saying that.

    If Bahrain is cancelled it should be because it’s dangerous to the teams, not to score political points for others.

    • First sensible comment I’ve read on this post, including the post. The media frenzy surrounding this and the other issues currently flaring up in the middle east is just that, a Media frenzy with vested interests.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 11:44

      China is so big that the safety argument is unlikely to be there, even if this year major protest were to break out and be squashed bloodily in Beijing during the GP; I agree this might make the momentum to stop a GP there smaller, but that doesn’t mean a lot of F1 fans wouldn’t be arguing for stopping the GP.

      In the end, we aren’t asked for our opinion by FOM, not about these things, so our influence has its limitations; here we can add our voice to hope and influence this one, and thus we do.

      As for Australia and SA in the past: that is the past, and people did not have as direct access to knowledge of how the situation was; anyway, we can’t now do anything about it, apart from possibly thinking they were the wrong thing to do a the time. Even so, I am sure for some people it made it distasteful to have the GP there and they did protest about it.

      I wasn’t old enough to watch F1 at the time (born end of 1975), can’t do anything about not protesting at the time. I am pretty sure my parents disliked F1 having a GP, if that helps.

    • Agreed Dafid,

      We all have skeletons in the wardrobe, some more than others. The media, government and the corporatocracy are so intertwined, I sometimes wonder who makes the decisions (I would put my money on the latter!) – because that is what affects nearly all decision making – money. F1 will not cancel the GP for political reasons, it will be safety and security and rightly so.

    • Agreed. And if you combine a political statement with ‘it’s dangerous for the circus of people to attend’, the political statement is immediately watered down. It just looks like it’s being used as a way of getting out of something difficult.

      I’d like to know what the opposition leaders think. I’d like to know what the many people who will receive income from the GP think. And even whether this is the same thing. The geopolitics of these situations are much more complex than most people think. If you are looking to take over ‘power’ in a country, crippling it’s economy and disenfranchising even more people is a quick way to do it.

      The question in Bahrain at the moment is whether there is any mechanism to investigate the actions of the police/military and whether an honest and truthful enquiry takes place. That is what marks out a mature and open society. Maybe, just maybe, the people closest to the King and his family, within F1, can help to bring this about. Just turning tail and claiming a somewhat dubious moral victory smacks of ignorance and kneejerk posturing to me.

      I wish the best for every ordinary person trying to live their life safely and productively in Bahrain. In the end, what do they want?

    • Maciek said on 18th February 2011, 12:22

      All well and good, but saying that others are doing bad things too is no reason to not take action here. Isn’t it better to start somewhere than not at all? And in any case what do you want that’s the way the world works. Poland almost finished communism in 1980/81, but after the government clamped down and limited western media access it was less sexy and without outside support the movement could only go underground. I’d rather that didn’t have to happen in the Middle East now.

      • DASMAN said on 18th February 2011, 13:29

        Daffd is 100% spot on IMO.

        If we start to make F1 about international politics, who do we appoint as judge over where it can go? Bernie? Lol!

        People should get off their high horses and realise that sport is sport, politics should not come into it,(I know it does, unfortunately).

        The reason the Bahrain GP will not happen is down to safety issues. Any other reason opens a can of worms that is difficult to close.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2011, 15:15

          So let F1 not be about politics. But letting it go ahead would be a gigantic support call endorsing the government.

          Maciek is right, good example. Give them the chance to have a bit more freedom and a right to say what they want.

    • I really don’t see how people can disconnect the two so casually.

      Whatever political side F1 does or does not take does not change the fact is is highly immoral to even consider holding race organized by and held on on a track owned entirely by the government, when they are beating protesters to death some miles away. Going there is as much a political statement as not going, but in any case the reason for not going is a moral one, not political.

      Accepting some countries do not grant its citizens the same rights as civilizations is something other than condoning brutal violence against fellow humans.

      Other regimes also using awful means to a political goal doesn’t make this any more right. If you’re adament on drawing a comparison with other regimes, it is perhaps much wiser to draw a lesson from this disgust towards oppression, rather than the apathy towards atrocities committed elsewhere.

      The fact other countries have done very questionable things in the past regarding human rights which we now take for granted should only speak for the validity of the aim of those coming up for there own, not condone that kind of behavior in the 21st century.

  2. How come PM is still quiet on this one?

    • …because he is too busy at the moment picking his reputation off the floor which is in tatters!:>) Only joking mate, hope all is well, we all have opinions and you have every right to have yours.

  3. Bahnstormer said on 18th February 2011, 11:15

    Excellent article, Keith

    Absolutely agree. It’s a shame the teams will be out of pocket, and if the reports from Bahrain are true, I can’t see them going back for a long while.

    Agree with the other comments on maybe hosting a test somewhere else like Qatar/Dubai.

    Thoughts are with the Bahrainis

  4. Bilstar (@bilstar) said on 18th February 2011, 11:15

    Hate to say it because I wanna go racing, but I completely agree with you Keith. Cancel the race and never return.
    This stuff makes me sick on so many levels.

    • Luckily, with the advent of movable wings, there won’t be anything that could be described as ‘racing’ going on this season anyway – so no big loss.

  5. Richard M said on 18th February 2011, 11:17

    I think if there are serious safety concerns then they should cancel because there is no way the drivers/teams, stewards, fans, media, etc should be put in a dangerous position just to run a F1 race. However I think it is a slippery slope boycotting the race for political reason, because it you use F1 as a political statement against an autocratic government in Bahrain which F1 has been going to and taking money from for years then why not boycott China as well or Abu Dhabi? Turkey has a bad reputation for human rights if you boycott Bahrain then why not Turkey? Maldonado is backed by a autocraitc government should he be banned from F1? Do not get me wrong what is going on in Bahrain is horrific and is to be condemmed but I do not think F1 should have a poltical agenda because it sets a dangerous precedent and smacks of hypocrisy. Cancel the race for safety reasons but not for a political statement.

  6. taurus said on 18th February 2011, 11:17

    Are the teams gonna have any grief getting their equipment thats already there out of Bahrain?

  7. Just been watching Sky News. Apparently the tear gas cannisters being used against the civilians were sold to the government by the UK. We sell our arms to anyone, this is how we knew that Saddam had WMDs, we just checked our invoice book! :>)

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th February 2011, 11:41

      Tear gas is not lethal. It’s designed as a choking agent, designed to disperse crowds by prompting them to seek clean air. It’s only really a danger to those with exisintg breathing conditions, like bronchitis.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 11:52

        At the same time, yes this is a problem: a lot of Western countries are making quite a bit of money selling all kinds of weapons/weapon systems, selling to regimes that aren’t always top notch with human rights. It is good to be aware of it, and I personally think that it should stop.

        Easy to say as I can’t do all that much against it. At least my country signed the anti-mine treaty – after they stopped producing them. In the end, now with twitter etc. we can voice our opinion against such things a bit easier perhaps, and then there is voting, but there is only a limited amount we can do about it, but that isn’t a reason to just do nothing.

      • Ive used it, so I understand its MO. My point was more aimed at the hypocracy of so called Western democratic Governments supporting tyranical regimes overseas by selling them weapons which could be used against their own own people, and in some cases, weapon systems that could only be used for torture. We love it in the West, taking the moral high ground, when in fact, there is more blood on our hands than most other countries put together. So forgive me if I don’t get all choked up when I hear the national anthem. Sorry, wrong meeting…

        :>)

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th February 2011, 12:11

          The entire point of tear gas is that it is a non-lethal weapon specifically designed to break up crowds with no long-term health effects. There are countless examples of cases where the use of tear gas has been authorised and accepted as a legitimate tactic for breaking up a riot, riots which have happened in the developed world. Do you criticise those governmnets for authorising the use of tear gas in those cases?

          • Tear gas, water cannons, firing of elastic bands or tickling sticks, whatever. My comments are not with regards to the type of weapon systems, it is the hypocracy of Western ‘Democratic’ Governments selling arms to tyranical regimes, it is as simple as that…and what we are seeing, is Exactly that.

            “If we dont sell weapons, then someone else will”…”Its not the weapons, its the end user”..”Its good for UK jobs…etc etc – all bull**** excuses.

            The bottom line is, very simple. Take a deep breath…We are either real human beings or we are not.

  8. Cancel and NEVER go back!

  9. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th February 2011, 11:26

    It must not.

    If the race must be cancelled, then it should be cancelled for the right reasons: to protect the teams and drivers. And for no other reason. Formula 1 is not a political tool, and Ecclestone has no place dabbling in the politics of Bahrain.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 11:56

      Of course that will be the reason given, if only because that is something that the contracts will be likely to cover, and it is easier to defend for the Bahrain government (even if it admits they aren’t fully in control). It also is easy to explain to sponsors and shareholders.

      It doesn’t mean that behind the scenes there was debate about other reasons and sponsors or shareholders possibly pushing for an outcome based on different reasons, nor will it mean that people will not have their own opinion on why it was stopped.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 18th February 2011, 11:58

      So, hypothetically, if the safety of the drivers/ teams could be guaranteed, yet the protestors kept on dying throughout the race weekend, you would see no problem with that?

      • Why should we see a problem with that? As Prisoner Monkeys wisely said, F1 is not a political tool. It’s about racing and sports entertainment, not about promoting “glorious freedom”.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th February 2011, 12:12

        So, hypothetically, if the safety of the drivers/ teams could be guaranteed, yet the protestors kept on dying throughout the race weekend, you would see no problem with that?

        I have a problem with it, but it is not the place of Formula 1 to pass judgement on it. This is a matter for nations and governments to resolve, not motorsports.

        • Maciek said on 18th February 2011, 12:30

          That’s a beeswax argument PM. the only people who can make a clean separation between politics and the rest of life are those like us who live comfortably in places where politics means talking heads on TV and tax reform. In places where upheaval is going on, ‘politics’ is life (and death). Taking a stance and saying we will not go to entertain for money in a place where people are getting smacked with police batons and worse just for saying they don’t like the government is not political. It’s just plain decent. And please don’t respond with “there’s other places…”- of course there are, but it’s always good to start somewhere. Sometimes you can end up doing the right thing even your motivations aren’t as noble as might seem.

        • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th February 2011, 13:39

          I have a problem with it, but it is not the place of Formula 1 to pass judgement on it. This is a matter for nations and governments to resolve, not motorsports.

          I actually agree with you there. But it still doesn’t look good. I think that even in this scenario, it’d be best if they just left it for a year – regardless of whether or not it is F1’s duty to resolve issues in Bahrain.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2011, 14:11

          Looks like Bernie sees it the same way.

          So no problem to you, if the government puts tanks all along the roads and shoots everyone not agreeing to keep the F1 personell safe and reporters are being shipped in in blinded busses and receive their mobile phones back only after boarding the plane out of there?

          Because from what is going on, this is about the most safety and calm they are going to get in a couple of weeks.

          Even some Teams have already spoken up, that they would not like to be seen in a negative way being in such a situation.

    • That was the argument used to hold races in S Africa. Didn’t win F1 many friends then.

    • SparkyJ23 (@sparkyj23) said on 18th February 2011, 14:13

      Regardless of the motivations of those protesting it is clearly not safe for folks to visit. Whether this helps the Bahrain people or not never was relevant I thought.

      What helps F1 is not getting motorhomes/property set on fire or otherwise damaged.

  10. There is always two sides of a story. It depends who you believe

    • Ean,

      What is the the other side?

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th February 2011, 11:43

        Where is it written that the Bahrain governmnet ordered the deaths of those protestors? What if it was just one unit of police officers who were given orders to break up a riot and took things too far? It wouldn’t be the first time it has happened.

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 11:58

          Possibly true, but why did these police officers then think it was their mandate to stop those people at all costs, instead of going back to the top and saying it can’t be done in a reasonably humane way? That is in itself sign that things are bad.

        • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 18th February 2011, 12:00

          Well, we certainly haven’t heard the government condemning the policemen, launching murder enquries etc. At the end of the day, the government is in charge

        • Maciek said on 18th February 2011, 12:50

          PM – is there a reason you consistently stick up for the authorities? Who said anything about ordering deaths? Thing is authoritarian regimes don’t need to directly order deaths – all you need to do is train a couple of generations opf repressive police units who know that their job with potential protesters is ‘neutralisation’ and then you equip them accordingly. You don’t need to consciously intend to kill in order to be responsible for deaths. It’s enough that you create the conditions for it to happen. Just like all authoritarian regimes do.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th February 2011, 14:13

          Even if the armed police forces decided to do that on their own, does it make it any less horrible?

          Prove us that what can be seen on footage and comments from CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC and loads of others is not true and then ask us to give evidence of the government not ordering this.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 18th February 2011, 12:01

      Ean- All sorts of neutral news agencies from all over the world are reporting on this story, and the common consensus is that these were innocent protestors set upon while they slept

  11. Philip said on 18th February 2011, 11:33

    I totally agree, what happened in Bahrain in disgusting and the race should not go ahead.

    However Ecclestone is himself a dictator so I don’t suppose he will listen unless the pressure is immense.

    It also begs a bigger question – of hypocrisy, after all F1 deals with a lot of corrupt regimes and this kind of thing happens on a daily basis in many places, just on a smaller scale. The only reason these countries can outbid European rivals is because they can spend their money with no accountability. Maybe it brings into question a good part of the calendar.

  12. Christine Biggs said on 18th February 2011, 11:36

    Ean, I’d like to know the other side too!

  13. This article is not news, this is like brainwashing.

    We cant say for sure what really happened and we cant say for sure if the people at the top are responsible for the things which happened on the ground.

    Like you said, Journalists are not allowed in the country. So the only info we have to work with is the word from a few very bias and questionable sources.

    I’ll reserve my judgement for when we actually know whats going on.

    • and of course protesters would say stuff like that. They have an agenda and they are trying very hard to operate an open smear champaign. The entire goal is to put the government in bad light in order to gain the support of the rest of the world.

      • Maciek said on 18th February 2011, 12:40

        That’s kind of like saying that we can’t know for sure that the sun has risen on a cloudy day because we can’t see it with our own eyes. Think about it – what is the only logical reason that foreign journalists not allowed into the country now?

      • Dobin1000 (@dobin1000) said on 18th February 2011, 12:51

        Well the government helped out a lot by attacking unarmed people why they slept – how fortunate for them…

    • Agreed. Finally some sense, rather than jumping on the ‘revolution’ bandwagon without any knowledge whatsoever of the country or what may or may be happening there.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th February 2011, 12:08

      Ahm, but there were journalists, and they spoke to victims, and doctors. There were at least those covering GP2 – Will Buxton had an interview with CNN about what he witnessed. Also, there were videos online of what happened, including by a journalist who got beaten up for being around. It is not just the opinion of people with a grudge.

      No, we don’t have “evidence” to convict the “top” in Bahrain, I guess. But they are the government, they allowed this to happen – and they didn’t stop it either. Here in the Netherlands we have something called “ministerial responsibility” which means that a government minister is ultimately responsible for what his/her department does – regardless of actual culpability; the Bahrain government at least has that sort of responsibility for this.

      Maybe we will see a quick action by them to stop this and repair what they can for the victims, and that might help them stay on; but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Not allowing journalists into the country is also a sign of that – even if it is done “for their own safety”.

    • Dobin1000 (@dobin1000) said on 18th February 2011, 12:51

      The article is headline ‘Comment’, not ‘News’.

      • Butler258 said on 18th February 2011, 18:11

        In addition to this, the subtitleof the site is usually along the lines of “The Formula One Blog” (cant see it atm because of the message to kubica)

        But what im getting at is, Keith can write whatever the hell he wants, “brainwashing” or not.

    • jihelle (@jihelle) said on 18th February 2011, 20:55

      Where have you heard that journalists are not allowed in the country ? It must be wrong because they are allowed to enter it. Just watch the News and you will have a full account of what is going on there. Then you are free to believe it or not. But as all the media are saying the same thing, that is that innocent demonstrating people were fired upon, I would tend to believe them.

  14. Christine Biggs said on 18th February 2011, 11:45

    As sport fans I don’t think we should be citing political or human right reasons for stopping the GP, that should be done in the appropriate arenas. But the physical violence which has occurred and hence the lack of medical backup should be enough to cancel the GP.

  15. Fergal said on 18th February 2011, 11:46

    Difference in this case is that the bernie’s comments incentivises the government to do what ever it takes to crush the protests by wednesday. In such a small country, the gp is vastly important to the rulers.

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