Bahrain deadline

Bahrain to end state of emergency two days before FIA decide on race

2011 Bahrain Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Bahrain deadline
Bahrain deadline

The good thing about Adolf Hitler, mused Bernie Ecclestone two years ago, was that he could “command a lot of people” and “get things done”.

So it’s not difficult to imagine him admiring how the rulers of Bahrain have got things done in the three months since their Grand Prix was postponed.

One of the things they have done is keep the international media out, suppressing coverage of what has gone on in the country in recent weeks and months.

One team of reporters who did make it into the country earlier this week heard stories of schoolgirls being beaten and threatened with rape on suspicion of their involvement in the February and March protests.

Further details of what has gone on in Bahrain since the postponement of the race make for grim reading.

Earlier this week that King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa declared the country’s state of emergency, which began six days before the race was postponed, will end on June 1st.

Coincidentally – or perhaps not – the FIA World Motor Sport Council meets to discuss whether the race should happen just two days later.

Jean Todt’s words to Autosport last week stressed the FIA’s desire to “support” Bahrain’s efforts to hold a race this year:

“We completely sympathise with the problems that are happening, and we all understand that it would not have been possible to keep the Grand Prix as the first race of the championship. […]

“Fortunately things have improved, but they were not in a position to commit definitely – and I had a discussion with Bernie, with the government, with the ASN, and they asked us if we would accept one more month, which means until the next World Council on June 3, which I accepted.

“I think if you are in a difficult situation, you need support. That is our responsibility. We need to give some support and it will penalise nobody to have a final answer by June 3.”

While some F1 journalists are considering not attending the race on principle if it takes place and at least one team has dropped hints it would not go, Todt echoed Ecclestone’s claim that F1 should not take a “political” stance.

He said: “I don’t think we could get involved in what is normal, what is not normal. Let’s hope there is more peace in our world and we can enjoy the sport.”

Todt is kidding himself with these bland platitudes. There is no apolitical stance on this matter.

Giving unqualified support to the government of Bahrain and handing them an F1 race as a reward for their violent suppression of pre-democracy protests would be just as much a political decision as taking their Grand Prix away.

Should the Bahrain Grand Prix go ahead? Cast your vote here: Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be held in 2011?

Cartoon by Gurmit for F1 Fanatic. See more of Gurmit’s work here.

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

123 comments on “Bahrain to end state of emergency two days before FIA decide on race”

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  1. The image =D

    I still don’t think it’s necessary for it. Can’t they wait till next season when they have everything completely under control instead of hoping it will be by November (Or whenever it will be held).

    1. To be honest, as long as the Khalifa’s are in power I don’t want to see the Bahrain GP at all. The damage they’ve done to their international reputation will take decades to repair, not an extra 6 months

      1. I think their Crown Prince really was trying to get reforms in. Just the hard liners (supported by neighbouring Saudi Arabia) won back the momentum and pushed through.

        In that respect, its interesting to see that now a younger (and hardliner friendly) of the kings sons is being put in the spotlight far more. Shows this is really very much about politics.

      2. Entirely agree with NF. How anyone connected with F1 could look the democratic world in the eye and try to claim that going back to Bahrain was ‘OK’ is deluding themselves. It would be the 2011 equivalent of happily turning up for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

        Simply by being there ( in Bahrain ) you make the wrong political statement. The brutality with which this medieval regime has supressed dissent is sickening.
        Schoolchildren terrorised into submission, doctors beaten and detained for treating the injuries of anyone the regime disapproves of.

        Ecclestone reminds me of the people who said we should all welcome and maintain sporting ties with the South Africa of aparthied. It was wrong then. It’s absolutely wrong now.

        1. The worst thing is, current hard boiled reactions by the government are only going to increase discontent. Look at this interesting article about how that has already happened.

    2. That image is really good.

      All the evidence shows, its rather going silent for lack of reporting on it and other headlines rather than really turning to anything most people here would consider “normal” in Bahrain.

      This feels suspiciously like finding a route in, as Todt puts it “giving support” to a strategy by hard liners in the government (the PM) and neighbours to crush rather than talk and reform / develop (as tried by the Crown Prince who has now disappeared from the spotlights).

      1. We had a journalist at uni last week to talk about how the revolts in the arab world have been experienced by them. She talked about all the countries that have had ample coverage in the news. When I asked about Bahrain’s absence in the news, she simply answered there’s no way for TV journalists to get in easily now. The situation is apparently like in Tunisia under Ben Ali.

    3. graham228221
      13th May 2011, 19:23

      On the other hand, the FIA allowing them to host the GP and then the teams, journalists and fans not showing up would draw way more attention to the terrible behaviour by the ruling party there.

      If they had the GP arranged, they’d have a very strong impetus to get things properly sorted out by October/November – otherwise the world’s media will have a field day.

      Not saying that awarding Bahrain would be an entirely positive thing, but there might be a silver lining…

      1. I agree. If they were allowed to have it, then they would have a deadline to sort things out – if they don’t, the world’s media would expose any violations against human rights and expose Bahrain to the world.

        1. I didn’t mean human rights, because if this whole argument was based on human rights, we wouldn’t have an F1 race in China. I meant: violent oppression and killing of their own people.

    4. Aussie Fan
      16th May 2011, 6:07

      They were shooting unarmed protesters in the street, its as easy as looking it up on youtube (go do it instead of sticking your head in the sand, Please!) to see what has been going on there.

      Disgusting, we should NEVER be holding another GP there, but of course MONEY will rule again & there will be another Bahrain GP ….. No one will talk about the killings, it will all be swept under the rug whilst we all pretend we are civilised & it never happened on our watch.

      Shame at the world today. & a big + 1 to what Ned Flanders has written about the Khalifas.

  2. Todt is kidding himself with these bland platitudes. There is no apolitical stance on this matter.

    Absolutely. This is a disgusting situation.

    1. Todt is kidding himself with these bland platitudes. There is no apolitical stance on this matter.

      Giving unqualified support to the government of Bahrain and handing them an F1 race as a reward for their violent suppression of pre-democracy protests would be just as much a political decision as taking their Grand Prix away.

      While I agree with you completely Keith, I feel, as a journalist, you should be a little more diplomatic than this and not turn the article into your our personal rant.

      1. This is a blog, not a news site! He ahs delivered a balanced story and then given his opinion. What’s the problems with that?

      2. Isn’t that a bit harsh? And how do you equate the article to a “rant”? At the top of the page you should be able to see under F1Fanatic – “The Formula 1 Blog”. Many in the so-called “mainstream media” have crossed into the blogosphere just to get around the filter of the system they work in and generally blurring the difference.

      3. Please read the line below “F1 Fanatic” at the top of the page.

      4. That’s exactly what I hate about new wave of bland journalism. Every opinion is equal.

        “Here we have a human rights organization, and here we have a bloody regime. We must be fair and present them in equal light. We can’t quite decide who’s right.”

        This kind of “fair and balance” rhetoric is simply immoral. I’m glad, that Keith isn’t afraid to take a stance and express his opinion.

      5. In all the years I have been an avid reader of this site, one of the vital reasons I regard it as essential F1 reading is the careful, intelligent balance of the ‘editorial’ comments. Keith often expresses an enlightened opinion and sometimes I entirely disagree with his views, but that doesn’t mean his opinions should not be expressed. On the contrary, they are a critical component of our wide ranging debates.

  3. Had intended to be in Bahrain for the opening race. The political situation is just so recent that we should not go this year. As nice as the place is absolute rule is not good. Lets see what the situation is at the end of this year.

  4. invisiblekid
    13th May 2011, 9:50

    “One of the things they have done is keep the international media out, suppressing coverage of what has gone on in the country in recent weeks and months”

    Yeah I think they got Max Clifford.

    They must be very clever to predict the future and when a mini civil war will be over and everything will be fine. Go back to bed America Bahrain, your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, your government is in control. © Bill Hicks

  5. ‘Politics should have no place in sport’… is a lie that has been nailed so many times through history that it is almost embarrassing to excuse oneself on those grounds.

    Sport, increasingly, is politics. Ruled by money and vested interests. To pretend otherwise is fatuous

    From the Telegraph article linked to above. Needless to say, I agree.

    James Allen ran an article only yesterday about drivers who are doing their bit for a good cause this week. Clearly they’re not all mindless robots, they’re human beings with feelings, and surely they’ll find what has happened in Bahrain as terrible as the rest of us. If so, I wish they could make a stand on the matter, because they have the power to actually do something about it

    1. Then the FIA would rescind their Super Licenses if they didn’t race….

      1. If all the drivers agreed not to race then there’s no may that could be upheld.

        1. yeh right…..

          1. “yeah right” glad you see sense bob it has happened before after all.

  6. The good thing about Adolf Hitler, mused Bernie Ecclestone two years ago, was that he could “command a lot of people” and “get things done”.

    Keith, I’m disappointed you resorted to this. Although Bernie’s comments were in poor taste, he never expressed a love for the idea of Nazism. At the end of World War I, Germany was saddled with the bill to reconstruct Europe. It was very unpopular in Germany, and seriously discredited the Weimacht Republic, which was the first truly democratic government the country had ever had. As evil as he was – and I will never, ever dispute that – Hitler did turn the country around. And that’s what Bernie was admiring: the way Hitler managed to turn Germany from humiliation to being a world power. But, like I said, the comments were in poor taste, and largely taken out of context by the media (he never did, after all, describe the massacre of six million people as a good thing).

    Todt is kidding himself with these bland platitudes. There is no apolitical stance on this matter.

    Yes, there is. If things in the country are so bad that the race needs to be cancelled on political grounds, then it has arguably passed the point where it is still safe for teams and drivers to attend the race.

    1. Although Bernie’s comments were in poor taste, he never expressed a love for the idea of Nazism.

      I didn’t say he had.

      1. True, but the implication is that because he showed admiration for Hilter, he must have support for Bahrain. And that makes sense if Bernie admired Hitler for his atrocities. But if you look at Bernie’s full comments about Hitler, he’s not expressing admiration for Hitler’s actions in bringing about the Holocaust, but in rebuilding Germany. On the other hand, the Crown Prince of Bahrain is not rebuilding his country. So I was disappointed that you took Bernie’s comments out of context to make a point about Bahrain.

        1. Mark Hitchcock
          13th May 2011, 10:54

          Hitler’s Germany wasn’t just about killing Jews, it was also about oppressing every citizen.
          Media control, secret military police patrolling the streets and a twisted ideology driving the whole thing. If you spoke out against Nazi-ism or the party you were as good as dead. Doesn’t seem too different to Bahrain to me in that respect so his misguided stance on Hitler is relevant to his misguided stance on Bahrain.

          1. Again, you’re only taking Ecclestone’s comments out of context. If you read them all as they were intended, Ecclestone is obviously showing admiration for the fact that Hitler turned Germany around, not what he stood for or how he went about doing it.

          2. Mark Hitchcock
            13th May 2011, 11:25

            No, I’m replying to your comment.
            I’m not sure how he could admire Hitler turning the country around yet not admire his methods.
            Did he think it was the snappy dressing and tidy moustache that did it?

          3. I’m not sure how he could admire Hitler turning the country around yet not admire his methods.

            Well, given that he has a documented history of running Formula 1 in such a way that he doesn’t care too much about the methods so long as what he wants done gets done, I’d say it’s not too difficult for him to ignore the means and focus on the ends.

          4. PM, in your reply you have just written down exactly the reason of why it made the best of sense for Keith to remind us of these feelings in an article about the current state in Bahrain.

          5. PM, in your reply you have just written down exactly the reason of why it made the best of sense for Keith to remind us of these feelings in an article about the current state in Bahrain.

            The reasons don’t matter. It’s the way the argument was presented.

          6. ??? Got me non-plussed now PM.

            Please explain, what was wrong in the way Keith presented, its

            not difficult to imagine him admiring how the rulers of Bahrain have got things done in the three months since their Grand Prix was postponed

            seeing how Bernie felt Hitler was good at things like

            “command a lot of people” and “get things done”.

            And why in your comment to Keith do you claim your

            disappointed you resorted to this

            when you mind only its presentation.

        2. johnny Legg
          13th May 2011, 11:08

          Godwins law? :/

        3. PM don’t forget that dictatorships are very efficient mainly because
          a) the power and the decision centers are centralized
          b) and the civil liberties are heavily suppressed.
          When you praise a dictator, you don’t only praise his decision making, but also the fact he is suppressing his citizenry in order to realize his very decisions.

        4. Paper Tiger
          13th May 2011, 12:00

          Not as disappointing as you taking Keith’s comments out of contaxt in order to have another argument.

          1. I’m not convinced you know what “taking something out of context” actually means.

        5. Which illustrates once again, PM, how little you understand ( or perhaps want to understand )about the methods Hitler used to achieve the results he did. Brutality was an everyday commonplace. If you did not conform to the dictates of the state in any way or at any level you were marching down the road which would lead you, eventually, to the death camps. Dissent with the regime system was simply not tolerated. And that is uncontested fact.

          Totalitarian control of populations is evil whether it manifests itself in European, Asian, African, South American,
          or a tiny Arab kingdom with a great deal of money and not a lot of human tolerance.

    2. Not to disturb your argument, but its the Weimar Republic PM, the army was the “Wehrmacht”.

      1. Sorry to drag this off-topic, but pretty much everything Hitler did to revitalise Germany was geared to going to war someday. Separating the two is a historical interpretation I dabbled with in my undergraduate days but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

        1. Sure, that WAS his stragegy. Creating jobs for many by producing a weaponry to get back what they saw as rightfully theirs. It worked to get the masses behind him and set the basis for being able to fight that war.

        2. exactly, even all those miles of Autobahns was made for 1 reason, to get his troops to the neighbouring countries borders as quickly as possible.

      2. German is not my first language.

        1. That is not as much about Language as about getting historic facts mixed up. I did not want to make a big thing out of it, but since you are mostly pretty much correct on facts (as for opinions … :-D), I thought I would correct you there.

        2. Paper Tiger
          14th May 2011, 15:44

          ‘I’m not convinced you know what “taking something out of context” actually means.’

          A prime example would be you falsely claiming that Keith said Bernie supported Nazism and then, when asked to back up your claim, falling back on the old “it’s not what he said, it’s how he said it” argument.

    3. To start with the end of your message. I take that as confirming you think the race should not go ahead in light of the situation in Bahrain.
      It certainly is at all sure to be safe.

      As for the reaction to Keith’s reminder Bernie likes clear cut, tough actions, I find your interpretation to be just as bad taste as it is not correct.

      We are not discussing the (understandable) background of why it was possible for a populist “make do” group to rise to power in the 1930.
      The point made is, that Bernie does not mind too much the other aspects of people, if only they get things done. Something that certainly can be arued to apply to the current Bahrain government.

    4. You know what I wonder? If the majority of people on the site were desperate that the GP should go ahead, would you agree with them, or would you change stance and argue that it shouldn’t? Because sometimes I suspect you’re just looking for a perpetual argument

      1. I cannot, but support this huch of yours Ned.

    5. I think you should reconsider your talking points in light of your Freudian slip of combining Weimar and Wehrmacht.

      Holding an international sport like F1 or any international sport in Bahrain at this point in time is indeed a tacit endorsement for the race organizers, namely the royals. It’s no wonder some teams have expressed their intent to unilaterally pull out. Nice to see some people still have a conscience.

      1. hear hear NJ

  7. They had their chance, they failed. The only reason they can even get back on the calendar is the gap either side of the Abu Dhabi race.

    Personally I wouldn’t miss it if we never went back there again, but that’s no reason not to. The whole thing just smacks of Korea again, desperately trying to get it going for the sake of image (on the government side) and money (on Bernie’s side).

    Every country has had its problems in the past. 1 year isn’t the same as the decades that have passed in our own countries but I feel it’s a suitable enough time to let feelings cool. Going this year would be too soon.

    1. Couldn’t agree more with everything you said.

  8. It seems the only way people will accept a race in that country is if the rebellion is a success.

    In all, you have selected a side you wish to win the fight, and unless that side wins you will continue bashing the country.

    If they come out and say the country is stable and the deaths have stopped, that just wont be good enough for most of you.

    1. I would have really accepted and welcomed such a statement, if it was made by Crown Prince AND representatives of the opposition after finishing talks and going on a road to some reform.

      Now it is just the government stating its won, nothing to see here, everything is back to normal soon. And worrying reports from various media sources showing that is certainly not the whole picture.

    2. Deaths stop because martial law is imposed.

      Deaths stop because a dialogue begins between the Royal Family and the protesters.

      Not the same things are they?

  9. If this race goes ahead i don;t think it will be shown on TV here in the UK, at least that’s the current thinking by the BBC so i’m told, it may be shown online though.

  10. yadda yadda …F1 should remain apolitical..

    The Bahraini government will use a Grand Prix precisely for political gain. It will be used a demonstration of legitimacy and as a smoke screen to hide behind. Reminds me of the circus maximus during the Roman empire. Give the world some games and no one will pay attention to the real problems.

    I can’t believe that Bernie would really let his baby be used as a political tool. Now that I’ve said it, I guess China may be another example. Oh well, money talks I guess.

  11. One of the things I enjoy about avoiding the print media is that I’m not subjected to asinine political cartoonists. I’m disappointed to find F1Fanatic doing it…..

    Or the classic clips from “The Day Today”…

    1. It’s not the first time I’ve used a cartoon or caricature on the site ( and it won’t be the last.

      Care to explain why you find it “asinine” or are you content just to hurl insults without bothering to explain them?

      1. Follow the Penny Arcade link, it sums up in a cartoon why the newspaper political/editorial cartoon is a tired, uninteresting, unnecessary format of humour. More to the point, read the news post from Tycho that’s attached to it, his arguments are essentially flawless in my mind. The Day Today did something very similar where they did “video cartoons” of topical news. Terry Pratchett did it at the end of Making Money. In all three cases I found that the concept was quickly, effectively, and terminally skewered. I don’t know why it persists at all.

        It’s a way for newspapers to Phil Space and break up a wall of text on the page. Both are unnecessary on the internet. More to the point, when was the last time anyone looked at a political cartoon and actually laughed? There’s a joke in Gurmit’s cartoon, but it’s a joke that’s months old, has been tired out long ago, and turning it into a cartoon hasn’t done anything to revitalise it. The cartoon doesn’t add anything to the article, if anything it trivialises and takes away from it.

        As always Keith, it’s your site and you’re free to do what you like with it. But I’m going to skip past the articles with cartoons.

        1. Hairs, if you noticed, there are a lot of us here very positive of how that cartoon perfectly captures the situation and gives depth to the article.

        2. so, one cartoon perfectly describes why all cartoons are “asinine”? Wow it must be one pretty powerful image to describe all circumstances, in a visual representation, why cartoons are ineffective, obsolete etc etc …. except it was a cartoon that did this…

  12. Jean Todt is right, the FIA is simply an organisation which is concerned with motorsport, not human rights. Coming from Northern Ireland i know first hand that sport, politics and religion DO NOT AND SHOULD NEVER MIX

    I can understand the view that F1 shouldn’t go there because the Bahrain government are killing innocent people and are generally not being very nice to their population but then F1 never had a problem going to South Africa for all those years during Apartheid.

    If it’s “safe” for everyone who needs to be there then there’s no reason why Bahrain can’t hold a Grand Prix in 2011.

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      13th May 2011, 13:12

      F1 never had a problem going to South Africa for all those years during Apartheid

      And that is a stain on its reputation. Lets not add another one.

      1. You’re missing my point.

        F1 could have a Grand Prix in North Korea, Iraq or Afghanistan because it’s a sport, nothing more, nothing less.

        The important thing is that no matter where a Grand Prix is held, regardless of it’s politics or human rights record, is that it’s safe for everyone to attend.

        1. Mark Hitchcock
          13th May 2011, 13:41

          I understand your point, but I disagree.

          F1 is not just a sport, it’s an prestigious event, it’s a status symbol for many countries and in cases such as Bahrain, South Africa etc. it appears to legitimise (and take money from) terrible governments and behaviour.
          To ignore that is naive and I can’t help but think that many people who argue that sport should be apolitical are doing so for selfish reasons. They don’t want to miss out on their fortnightly entertainment and no amount of real and ongoing suffering will get in the way.

          1. It seems a bit ironic of me to be arguing this point about Formula 1 which is essentially poliics with a bit of racing thrown in BUT sport is sport, it should always be void of any outside political infuence.

            For example FIFA/UEFA expelled Yugoslavia from the 1992 European Championships after it was revealed their goverment had influenced the Yugoslavian Football Association.(this worked fairly well for Denmark)

      2. Exactly. Why do people keep citing that as though it was some great decision which the sport nees to replicate??

    2. Yeah, well I guess it all depends on who and how defines “safe” (seeing you put it between semi colons).

      From most reports (apart from the Bahrain state run media and several Bahraini tweets and FB pages) it is pretty clear, that any safe will indeed have to be deemed “safe”-ish at best.

      1. aye, inverted commas…

        1. yeah, bit of a blackout there. But you got the meaning of it right?

    3. Nothing in this world is politics-free.

  13. HounslowBusGarage
    13th May 2011, 13:26

    If the race goes ahead and the political situation is not resolved, the protestors will be there in the crowd.
    One bottle thrown onto the track is all it will take.

    1. You are 100% correct and that will happen.

      The protesters will be determined to get onto world-wide, live television and the police/government/army will be determined to stop them.

      Not a good scenario.

    2. At least that, and even someone trying a bombing or kidnapping cannot be disregarded.

      Not safe at all.

      1. I don’t quite see these scenarios happening. For one, from what I understand the Bahrain situation to be, those protesting are not those that can afford to attend the race (or at least less so, on average). Second, from what we’ve seen in the Arab pro-democracy revolts over the past months, the bulk of the violence has come from the repressors, not the protesters (as is the case, time and again, in mass protests against authoritarian regimes) – terror tactics such as kidnappings and bombings have not been part of the protests.

        1. Yeah, that is certainly true. These protest have mainly been just that, only the repression with force have led to some reactions.

          But after being opressed, the chances are probably higher then ever before that someone will want to make a point.
          Making this both a politically stupid thing to go through with the race and a safety risk.

  14. I think the most apolitical thing you can do is hold the race. That’s how it was meant to be. That’s what contracts stated.

    The whole thing is getting out of hand regardless of how you view it.

  15. Despise everyone involved in this story… Todt, Eccelstone and Bahrain government.

    I didn’t want a race when in the inner racing fan in me wanted a timely (read:early) start to the season so why would I want one now?

    Time is irrelevant. It’s like sticking a plaster on a scar, it may look alright and somewhat like your skin but you and everyone knows, there’s a massive mess underneath.

  16. Cartoon says it all. And it’s not a joke if you know what I mean.

  17. I will say this: if the race does push through, don’t expect the stands to be empty. They will be full – by hook or by crook.

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      13th May 2011, 15:37

      I expect the opposite. People will be kept out for fear of trouble.

  18. Good article Keith and thanks for being a little brave.

    I appreciate it.

  19. The New Pope
    13th May 2011, 15:10

    Do you think there is any chance a driver or team would protest being involved in the Bahrain GP should they have one this year?

  20. There will be no Bahrain GP. It will stay cancelled on ‘safety grounds’.

    Even when they end the state of emergency, the travel advices form the officials in the European countries will not be adjusted immediately. Therefore everything and everybody will be uninsurable.

    If I’m wrong, we will have to defend our beloved sport again, because it is a major PR ‘bust-up’. For the common public, represented on this site, a line has been crossed. Therefore I hope it will be cancelled.

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