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

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

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

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

  1. Chris said on 13th May 2011, 15:39

    It’s disgusting to even consider Formula One going back to Bahrain in the present environment. There’s no way sponsors will want to be associated with the PR disaster that would ensue if the race is rescheduled for this year.

  2. DaveW said on 13th May 2011, 15:47

    Clever and well-cited post. The entire discussion about when and whether to have that race is a depressing farce. F1 does not need Bahrain, and the reason Bahrain wants F1 so much is precisely why it shouldn’t get it. F1 is not whitewash.

  3. xbx-117 (@xbx-117) said on 13th May 2011, 15:57

    If Williams does pull out I don’t think it will affect them any. Its not like they would have scored points anyway.

  4. Well I think they should race there. I don’t have a problem with any of it. It’s not a democracy, it’s not England, and it’s none of our business. IF it’s safe, race. If not, don’t. Given that no journos are there, it’s amazing all the ‘facts’ that are being reported.

    Keith – try to keep it to F1; it’s a little boring reading someones skewed political views, mostly obtained through what they see on the ‘news’. If I wanted an uneducated debate on someones view on the news, I’d go to the Daily Mail.

    • DaveW said on 13th May 2011, 19:07

      The irony of these comments about press access is astounding, but usefully gets to the core of the issue. If Bahrain is shutting out the media, why should anyone take its word that everything there is copacetic, or will be on future date determined? It seems that Keith has marshaled a lot of what there is to know about the current state of affairs there—which is information coming neither from Bahrain nor the F1 bureaucrats allegedly weighing the safety issue. Unlike a tabloid, he is not extrapolating and fabricating. And unlike Bernie, he is not parroting official bromides.

      We have brains to make up our own minds based on available data. And in my mind, the information tends to show that the country is no more a favorable state for a race than it was before the season—except that the jails are now more full of people with political grievance, and fear of finding one’s head under a hired Saudi combat boot is more widespread.

      So even if one’s scruples limit your concern to the safety of the teams and spectators, it’s the regime’s information blackout that puts that issue in doubt.

      More to the point, there is no separation between the political and practical here.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 14th May 2011, 1:59

      AA- If you want to stop visiting F1 Fanatic, I’m sure no one will miss you

      • AA said on 16th May 2011, 9:14

        I like the blog. There’s many out there to choose from. Mostly I like Keiths writing also, however on this occassion I thought his personal views overpowered it.

        Journalism is about point/counterpoint; not done very well here. Not knocking the blog, I love it. For an idea on the correct way of going about reporting Bahrain from an F1 point of view without getting personal views in the way, see Sawards post on the same subject at http://bit.ly/ligFcs

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th May 2011, 11:35

      I run the site, I’ll put my own views across whenever I see fit and I’ll thank you to give me a little more respect than calling me “uneducated”.

      • I called the debate uneducated, not you. Apologies; as I stated I really like your blog, but the debate on Bahrain, not just here but everywhere, is based on rumour and 2nd and 3rd hand sources and as a journalist myself, this frustrates me.

        I understand you can and should put your own views across, it’s what makes the blog interesting compared to many others. Equally the comment section is for me to put my views across. It’s ok for people to have different views; it’s what makes life interesting! :-)

        Keep up the good work on the blog; I like it very much and that’s why I come here.

  5. djdaveyp87 said on 13th May 2011, 18:52

    Love the article as always. I understand people having a different point of view, but what is with the petulant whingeing?

    Everything in this article is factual with the addition of Keiths opinion at the end. Each controversial point is in green and therefore linked to another factual story. How can you argue with the facts?

    Maybe you could disagree with Keiths opinion, which I do personally. I think we shoud race there as long as it is safe to do so and let the politicians of the world sort out the problems of the country. Would you object to a football match there?

  6. VXR said on 13th May 2011, 19:50

    Please let the race go ahead. I, for one, don’t need to hear the: ‘He’d have definitely won the WDC if the Bahrain GP had gone ahead’ type arguments. And all of this long after they had supported its cancellation.

    If it’s safe, why not go there? The majority of people in China and India (and there are a lot of them!) are probably much worse off than any Bahrainian citizen ever will be on a normal day to day basis. Who will champion their cause?

    • Burnout said on 14th May 2011, 7:43

      The difference being that there’s no mass protest or a violent crackdown on a mass protest in either China or India at the moment. If things reached a flashpoint and “peace” was restored after government action, F1 should stay out of China and India as well until things return to a more or less normal state of affairs.

      And I say this as an Indian who’s very excited about the Indian GP in october.

  7. Dan_the_McLaren_fan (@dan_the_mclaren_fan) said on 13th May 2011, 20:30

    If the race is rescheduled later this year, I will simply not watch it. There is a point when you shouldn’t go too far in being a fan of F1. I love the sport, and I’m really thrilled at (almost) each race. But I don’t want to take part in one of the worst thing that can happen in business. Because for the FIA, the FOM, and the authorities of Bahrain, all that matters is to get a lot of money regardless of the suffuring of people (and of the quality of racing). And for me, this is bad, and I will not watch it.
    (and I might miss a dull race anyway).

  8. Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 13th May 2011, 20:31

    Woah. Some of the comments on here are a bit intense. In my opinion we shouldn’t go, it would be encouraging a dictatorial response to people asking for democracy, which is fundamentally wrong.

    On a lighter note, the Bahrain GP is rubbish anyway, and the changes to the track didn’t exactly fill me with confidence this year would be any better. Whether it’s 19 or 20 races is irrelevant, the most points wins.

  9. sid_prasher (@) said on 13th May 2011, 21:11

    This is a real tough one. I am OK with 2 countries refusing to play each other because their relations are in a mess [has happened a few times in cricket, including the world cup – 2003].
    But I am really not sure if an organization can sit and judge on such political issues. I mean where do we draw the line? By the same rhetoric there should be no racing in China either – where the Noble Peace Prize winner is languishing in Jail.

  10. Russell said on 13th May 2011, 23:28

    The crux of the issue here is whether the Formula 1 community (e.g., fans, teams, FIA, sponsors, etc) are prepared to endorse a Bahrain GP when they all appreciate this will mean the authorities will impose extremely strict security immediately before and during the race weekend.

    We know already there have been many deaths, medical staff treating the protestors beaten, citizens detained without their families’ knowledge, and at least four people sentenced to death in a court case held behind closed doors.

    So how much more of this kind of activity is ‘acceptable’ in order to have a race, given further deaths, arrests, etc., are almost inevitable.

    As Bonkers Bernie takes F1 further down the ‘entertainment’ road, then what price a life for your continued entertainment?

  11. Alex Bkk said on 14th May 2011, 1:55

    The Bahrain GP has been like a dark cloud hanging hanging over the season thus far. Honestly, I don’t care if there’s never another GP there. I just wish it would blow away.

  12. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 14th May 2011, 9:46

    F1 goes to China, Malaysia, Singapore and Turkey. All countries where people get mistreated, tortured or even killed for their opinions/beliefs or their ethnicity.

    Why is Bahrain such a different situation?

    In fact even Paris had it’s riots from the underpriviliged muslim youths. Does that mean that an F1 race in France is made impossible by that? Protesters were shot by police then too.

    The only real issue is the safety. So far travel advice is to refrain from travelling to Bahrein unless travel is “essential”.

    If that doesn’t change then of course there can’t be a race there.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th May 2011, 11:43

      The Bahrain situation is made complicated by the fact it’s a tiny country, so F1 cannot be safe.

      Furthermore, because it’s a tiny country, the protests are “nation-wide” meaning something is up with the whole country and it’s not just some demo in one city. It would be akin to having student riots mowed down by the police everywhere in England and the same thing would happen as is now with Bahrain.

      Bahrain is a different situation because…it is a different situation.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th May 2011, 19:25

      Well, I am pretty certain a French GP would have been cancelled if it would have been planned to happen in the middle of those french riots.

      • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 14th May 2011, 21:23

        There was no negative travel advise during those riots.

        Again though, I’m talking about the moral debate. When protesters, trying to storm the police in Bahrain, get shot it’s a moral barrier for ever racing there again. When the French (Chinese, Malaysian, Turkish, Singaporese) police does exactly the same, there seems to be no issue with it at all.

        Why not?

        • Maciek said on 15th May 2011, 15:04

          I had a longer answer and my computer went plonk, but now I’ll just say that the examples you cite are just different on many levels (French police shot a youth, after which riots exploded – definitely not the same). And let’s not forget that the Bahrain race is directly paid for by the same government who’s doing the shooting. China is the most glaring current stain on F1 as far I’m concerned, but even there things aren’t as clear cut as they were some years ago. And a lot it is just timing – if Tienanmen were happening now, most people would say F1 shouldn’t be in China.

  13. cubejam (@cubejam) said on 14th May 2011, 10:08

    Brilliant :D Hopefully we get 20 races after all!

  14. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 14th May 2011, 17:18

    [ Normal programming will resume as soon as possible ]

    If I proposed cancelling the Canadian GP because the cops arrested a thousand or more protestors at the last G8/G20 summit, or cancelling the Brazilian GP because the government does nothing about underage prostitution, or Silverstone because the Met Police arrested (or didn’t) the kids who dinged up Charles and Camilla’s RR on Regent Street – you’d all say I’m as nutty as a fruit cake.

    So, please, let’s get out of politics and return to Formula One. I’m a fanatic

  15. VXR said on 14th May 2011, 19:49

    We could say that we shouldn’t go back to China until their internet access is no longer censored. There are many ways to oppress a people without resorting to violence. Do we always have to wait for the fighting to start before we say that enough is enough?

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 14th May 2011, 21:32

      It’s not even just censorship. The Chinese have killed hundreds of protesters in the last few years (2005, 2008, 2009).

      Hundreds got shot in the 2008 march protests. Yet I don’t remember anyone arguing that the race in China should not be held since the prestige of the F1 race would support the regime.

      • Maciek said on 15th May 2011, 15:08

        Got any links for stories on those ‘hundreds’? I don’t remember hearing anything remotely like that…?

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th May 2011, 18:43

        Well there were certainly a lot of people talking about going to china when the race was planned for the first time.

        But I guess having the Olympics there etc. have taken a bit off the argument of going there now.

        I am certain, there is a lot wrong in China. But hundreds of deads in a country as big as China is pretty bad, but hardly compares with the current situation in Bahrain with hundreds of dead on about 600.000 inhabitants.

  16. For me it is simply about f1. Not nazis/bahranis, which I feel are one of the same if I believe a lot of the opinions above. If the decision is made to give them a race, I will be there and will enjoy it. So will many of the people that oppose the idea now, because at the end of the day it will be about 24 cars going racing. Which is why we all read this site.

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