The Bahrain Grand Prix: A matter of conscience

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Bahrain International Circuit, 2011The protesters of Bahrain have taken a stand against a cruel regime. You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery.

The violent past

In February 2011 many Bahrainis, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, began a series of protests calling for democractic reforms in the country, which is ruled by a hereditary monarchy.

The peaceful protests were violently suppressed by the police, and several protesters were killed. As the situation deteriorated, the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for the following month was postponed. Shortly afterwards, the government declared a state of emergency, and brought in troops from overseas.

Thousands were arrested, and a commission of inquiry the following November determined many had been jailed “to punish those in the opposition and to deter political opposition”. The same report found widespread use of torture, and several deaths attributed to torture.

One such victim was Abdulkarim Ali Ahmed Fakhrawi, a founder of the Ali Wasat newspaper. After police surrounded the home of his relatives in Karbabad on April 2nd, Farkrawi presented himself at a police station.

Witnesses in the prison he was taken to reported hearing hearing him screaming in between blows. Then the screaming stopped, and a voice was heard saying “you killed him”. His body was returned to his family, who were told they would “end up like him” if they took photographs of it to prove he had been tortured. They did anyway (warning: graphic image).

The state of emergency was lifted on June 1st, two days before the FIA World Motor Sport Council met and restored the race to the calendar. One week later, the race organisers finally admitted it could not got ahead.

The stormy present

In the intervening months, little progress has been made. “The Bahraini authorities have been vociferous about their intention to introduce reforms and learn lessons from events in February and March 2011,” said a report issued yesterday by Amnesty International.

However, it added: “Reforms have been piecemeal, perhaps aiming to appease Bahrain?s international partners, and have failed to provide real accountability and justice for the victims. Human rights violations are continuing unabated. The government is refusing to release scores of prisoners who are incarcerated because they called for meaningful political reforms.”

Many in the country say the same. “There is still torture, still discrimination,” said one protester. “Everything we fought for on February 14th last year. It?s still just the same.”

The ongoing strife in the country has not prevented the FIA from trying to hold a race there this weekend. F1 team members and media began arriving in the country this week.

The government is clearly going to great lengths to keep areas F1 personnel normally visit quiet and ensure the continuing protests happen away from the track. Dozens of police vehicles line the road from Manama to the Bahrain International Circuit.

The continuing imprisonment of thousands of Bahrainis will make their task easier. This is a relatively small nation of 1.2 million inhabitants, more than half of which are expatriates. Even so, the regime has recently arrested another 60 protest leaders.

Despite this, the protests continue. Some are peaceful, but following the government’s violent response to peaceful demonstrations last year some protesters have thrown molotov cocktails.

There are threats of larger protests to come, and a growing sense that their anger is being directed at the race as well as the ruling Al Khalifa family.

The FIA gives political support to Bahrain

FIA president Jean Todt kept a low profile as the Bahrain row escalated. But German channel RTL managed to persuade him to speak on the matter last weekend.

Todt toed the FIA’s usual PR line: “There has been some controversy about it, but the FIA is a sports organisation,” he said. “We are only interested in sport – not politics.”

This is affirmed in the first article of the FIA statutes: “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting political discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.”

However the advertising campaign for the Bahrain Grand Prix – “UniF1ed – one nation in celebration” – makes a mockery of the FIA’s claim of political neutrality. The race is being promoted as a salve for the social divisions that were exposed in the country last year.

The political value of the FIA granting the country a place on the world championship was highlighted by Bahrain International Circuit chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa when the slogan was launched in February, saying: “We in Bahrain should feel extremely privileged to be part of an exclusive club of only a handful of countries who can say that they are a host of a Grand Prix and are a part of the FIA Formula One world championship.”

In local reports in the country F1 drivers are being used – most likely without their blessing – to endorse the race’s political message.

Money and morality

Commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has used similar rhetoric to Todt. He insisted that F1 does not concern itself with politics and does not make decision on moral grounds.

However that has not stopped him claiming the exact opposite when it has suited his needs. In December he claimed, “we pulled out of South Africa years ago [in 1985] because of apartheid”.

It’s hard to find much evidence this was the case besides Ecclestone’s selective re-telling of history.

Rather, pressure from television companies who refused to air further races in the country, a boycott by some teams and sponsors during the 1985 race, and the refusal of workers in Australia to handle “tainted” cargo from the Grand Prix, led to the race being dropped from the 1986 schedule.

This serves as a reminder to treat Ecclestone’s words with caution. Recall that last year the FIA revealed he’d attempted an 11th-hour reinstatement of the Grand Prix on the day after he’d said the race was “not on”.

Ecclestone’s overriding concern in this matter is ensuring F1 makes its money from Bahrain. That will happen if the race goes ahead or, as was the case last year, the Al Khalifas call it off.

However while the race brought in around ??25m ($40m) last year in hosting fees, an estimated ??59.7m ($95.3m) was lost in potential advertising revenue.

The China argument

Some have claimed that as long as F1 races in other countries with poor human rights records, such as China, then it must also race in Bahrain.

This argument is flawed in several ways. Taking a broad view, it is a mandate for F1 to go racing in – and lend credibility to – any regime, no matter how oppressive. Make way for the Iranian Grand Prix, or perhaps a race through the streets of Pyongyang.

The Chinese Grand Prix is of negligible importance to the government of China, and F1 refusing to race there would make no difference to its people. The same is not true in Bahrain.

The ruling royal family who own the circuit are the same people who stand to profit from the race happening and who have crushed demands for reform over the past 14 months.

Furthermore, the timing of several key events in relation to the activities of the FIA remains suspicious and troubling. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a protester currently on hunger strike in a Bahrain prison who has attracted considerable media attention, has been told he can appeal against his life sentence on April 23rd – the day after the race.

A matter of conscience

The protesters of Bahrain have taken a stand against a cruel regime which denies them basic rights and has ruthlessly suppressed their just pleas for reform.

You can either stand with them, or with those seeking to make money out of their misery. Those who go along quietly with what is happening, or chime in with another naive chorus of “sport should not be political”, are giving tacit endorsement to F1’s support for Bahraini oppression.

The government calls the protesters “terrorists” because the word resonates with those abroad who are only paying passing attention to what is going on. The protests began peacefully and many of them still are. But the use of violent and excessive force by the government has in some cases provoked a response in kind.

The Grand Prix is being used as a political tool by the Bahraini government. Those who oppose the race should have no compunction about challenging those who support it. This is what social media is for.

The situation brings to mind F1’s repeated visits to South Africa in the seventies and eighties. During one of those races James Hunt, while commentating for the BBC, vehemently criticised the regime and F1’s presence in the country.

I hope some of his successors in F1 broadcasting today have the conviction and the courage to do the same. Already some broadcasters including Sky Germany, Japan’s Fuji TV and Finland’s MTV3 have said they will not send people to the race.

F1 Fanatic’s Bahrain Grand Prix coverage

One response to the situation could be to ignore the race entirely. Several people have already told me they will not be watching the race, and I respect that.

However, as Todt and Ecclestone have chosen to use F1 to give financial support and credibility to the Bahrain government, I have chosen to use this platform to condemn it. A message to that effect will feature prominently on the site throughout the weekend.

I will continue to listen to, research and read about both sides of this complex debate, give coverage to both in the daily round-ups (which have featured scores of pieces on Bahrain in recent weeks) and, I expect, in further articles as well.

And as always, I invite all F1 fans to share their point of view.

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353 comments on The Bahrain Grand Prix: A matter of conscience

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  1. Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 18th April 2012, 10:18

    this is probably.. the best, most un-biased article on the internet at the moment..

    I’ll be watching the race, but it doesn’t mean I’m ok with, nor condone the violence and government actions being done at the moment.

    As much as I would like to boycott the race viewing, I really can’t.. but I will be streaming it, so hey! it’s not like i’m paying a corporate organisation to view it

    • Latina said on 18th April 2012, 14:59

      ”As much as I would like to boycott the race viewing, I really can’t…”
      Same here. A good piece once again from Keith.
      I would add one thing though, and that is, I am not completely in support of the current wave of government overthrows taking place in the Middle East. Quite alright,they have the right to decide who governs them and how they are governed, I tend to think that most of the protests are hijacked by elements who do not mean well. Granted these countries have been and are still being led by autocrats, they do have some semblance of peace, orderliness and rule of law not just within the country but also with their neighbors. This brings to mind the Syria situation- If/When (moderate) Assad goes, who takes over? We are watching to see how the Islamists who have taken over in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya will govern.

      • Mallesh Magdum (@malleshmagdum) said on 18th April 2012, 15:43

        Exactly….Middle-East is better off with autocratic rulers

        • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 18th April 2012, 16:32

          @Mallesh Magdum You didn’t really understand his argument did you? He meant that if a well-meant overthrow of goverment is being used by extremely evil elements(see reports of al-qaeda involvement in Libya for example) then it’s a bad thing. He also might have meant that autocracy is a lesser evil than theocracy( see Iran, taliban)

          • kimithechamp (@kimithechamp) said on 18th April 2012, 16:55

            I think that’s exactly what Mallesh meant.

          • Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 19th April 2012, 2:09

            Politics!..the scourge of mankind!

            There is something untoward about this Arab spring. Its almost as if there is one person or organization somwhere (which I shall not name, but its obvious if you think about it), sparking off these protests deliberately to create social unrest for their gain.

            No country should be ruled by an autocratic or theocratic leader, both are essentially the same in many ways. There will be no politics, no democracy in either regime. Any uprising that doesnt culminate in installing a secular government, will result in failure. In many Arab countries, post spring, overthrown dictators have been replaced by theocratic rulers, so in a few years they will back at square one.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 19th April 2012, 8:06

        Sir, it’s a bit naïve expecting Libya (or Iraq) to become a democracy overnight after decades of autocratic rule with excessive nepotism. It takes years to reform a state full of vices but it doesn’t mean it is not worth trying. Some nations are capable of smoother transitions but even though I didn’t expect such mild transition in Libya due to Kaddafi’s regime nature, I still supported his removal. Sometimes living in peace is not everything, dignity is priceless, there was no war in South Africa or Namibia during Apartheid years but what about their dignity?

        • JCost (@jcost) said on 19th April 2012, 8:36

          my bad, you’re actually a Lady not Sir :)

        • Brolloks (@brolloks) said on 19th April 2012, 17:48

          @jcost “No war in South Africa or Namibia during the Apartheid years”? Have you ever heard of something called the South African Bush (or Border) War? That war lasted from 1966 to 1989 until the National Party decided to betray their own people by stopping the war (making all blood spilled futile) and starting to negotiate with the ANC.

          Furthermore, what are you implying about “dignity”? Tell me what is wrong with white Christian civilization not wanting to integrate with the black masses? They weren’t “oppressed”. It was simply a matter of segregation.

    • Mack41 (@mack41) said on 18th April 2012, 16:44

      It’s a mostly well written piece but is no where near unbiased. It is clearly labeled as “comment” and is Keiths take on the situation.

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 18th April 2012, 18:00

      Why do you say you can’t ? I mean… of course you can !

    • M30 said on 19th April 2012, 1:47

      Nope the argument above is not concrete enough. Too many holes. I visit Bahrain every now and then and I am quite frankly, amused by this article.

      • Thejudge13 said on 19th April 2012, 9:51

        Like saying you Visit Columbo, Sri lanka…your point is?

        I guess the hundreds of families with dead husbands, brothers and fathers are not as amused. Neither are the thousands whose relatives are in detention.

        Nice that your life of privalidge allows you to smirk at others brutalisation

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th April 2012, 23:54

        I visit Bahrain every now and then

        So give us the benefit of your knowledge instead of sneering at people.

    • I’m with you. Last year I wrote an article on the cancellation of last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix in an attempt to explain the F1 mentality to political activists and the political situation to F1 fans. http://www.mattgsplace.net/sport/Formula%201/TSSNGO.htm
      (will reproduce the article in comments on request – the experimental background didn’t work out so well)

      This year well once again I yelled at anyone who’d hear me but it seemed that the people that mattered weren’t listening this time round. And now I hear that a protester has died away from the track. I won’t be watching the race live, I have other commitments but I will record it. A Grand Prix is a Grand Prix. I can’t just forget best part of 20 years as a Formula 1 fan. I think the Bahraini regime are scum but would happilly take a Molotov for any of the F1 people out there right now – other than Bernie whose stupidity led to this mess.

  2. Heskin Radiophonic (@heskin-radiophonic) said on 18th April 2012, 10:19

    A great post on a very difficult subject. I realise that you are forced into reporting the race, because, essentially, it is your job, and I applaud your stand. It’s an uncomfortable comprimise for you, I see. And I won’t be watching the race… but I’m still interested to know who won because it all counts to the championship.

    • eatmygoal (@eatmygoal) said on 18th April 2012, 18:48

      I guess the same applies to Bernie, who is forced to proceed with the race because it’s HIS job! If Kieth feels so strongly about the situation then he should not report on the race, otherwise he becomes part of his own argument. For me, I will be watching, as I believe the more media attention Bahrain receives the better. The more the situation in Bahrain is reported on, the more widespread the atrocities in the country become known. If you want to ague that Bernie and all are only concerned by the blood money then all I can say is wake up, this is the world we live in, how much do you think corporations are making out of the dead in Iraq right now?!

  3. F1 Allan (@f1allan) said on 18th April 2012, 10:20

    Very strong views. Ideally I agree that politics and sport shouldn’t mix (just like politics and religion shouldn’t). But we all know that, in reality that is an impossible idealism to realise.

    The motivation behind taking the ‘F1 circus’, in my opinion, is wrong. From where I stand it is wholly financially motivated. However, with strong unbiased reporters in the country, maybe just maybe, the cause of the people will be brought to the floor. The reality is that tens of thousands of people who wouldn’t normally comment (maybe even be interested in) on such an issue are being forced to wrestle with the facts coming out of the Kingdom and inevitably form some sort of partially informed view.

    In short, maybe and only maybe F1 going is a good thing for the wrong reasons. Safety, however, is a huge concern.

  4. wificats (@wificats) said on 18th April 2012, 10:25

    Thank you Keith for this well argued and well referenced piece. The decision of Ecclestone and the FIA to go ahead with the race is so transparently mercenary it is shameful. It is so clear that the race is being used as a political tool, any claim of it being ‘above politics’ is complete nonsense. I will not be watching the race in protest. I just wish there was more that we could do about this. As it is, it is embarrassing to be an F1 fan when the sport debases itself in this manner.

    At least in the past with the South African GP, the sponsors were preventing teams from running (or removing their logos in protest) sadly there seems to be little similar pressure from any major authorities in Formula 1 today.

    • Ean (@ean) said on 18th April 2012, 14:35

      Sorry, but I wish to correct you. Not a single formula one team ever withdrew from the South African GP’s nor did the sponsors remove their decals between 1967-1993. In case of the sponsors they had great financial interest in the country at the time.

    • Dan_the_McLaren_fan (@dan_the_mclaren_fan) said on 18th April 2012, 17:08

      I have t, he same opinion. F1 is a passion for me, I haven’t missed any of the 60 previous races, but it hurts me that my favourite sport is used to make people suffer even more. That means I will not watch the race. I think that’s the only thing I can do as an ordinary F1 fan.

      I hope there will be more people who’ll do the same, but I reckon it’s a difficult choice to make…

  5. Brolloks (@brolloks) said on 18th April 2012, 10:28

    Is this an appropriate topic? What does the opinion of the average F1 fan count when it comes to the rights or wrongs of a specific form of government? F1 has nothing to do with the history, philosophy, religion or economics of Bahrain. F1 is simply there to race. Nobody is going to “make money” from the “misery” of the people living there. The people protesting are but a select few using Western sympathy and F1 to further their minority cause.

    Nobody questioned going to China a few weeks back. There the liberal idea of so called “human rights” is not recognized like in the West. There are camps and prisons there that would cause outcry. F1 plans to go to the US, but the US are slaughtering hundreds and thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Israel using the Jews as an instrument. The same goes for the UK working with the US and NATO. In Libya and Egypt the “Arab Spring” was nothing more than a fad. People crying for “change” without a clear idea of an alternative. It was mostly just a fun activity to divert them from the tediousness of daily life. In Britain and France the government cracked down on “protesters” at universities etc. burning down cars and the likes. Then they “keep peace and law and order”. If you do that in any other country, you are the Antichrist.

    This is just the point of view of the liberal West. Iranians would not have a problem with Bahrain. As a Boer I would be just as qualified to protest the GP’s in Europe, because I don’t believe in their ideas of homosexual marriages, immigration, asylum, or anti-nationalism. Or the Chinese ideology of Communism. Or the US GP as they are supporters of Israel. Or, as a Calvinist, the Sao Paulo GP in Catholic Brazil or the Islamic Abu Dhabi GP.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th April 2012, 10:40

      @brolloks, are you sure you read the article, specifically the part appropriately titled “the China argument”? I think that counters your posts 2nd paragraph rather well.

      Your last paragraph seems to be to be taking cultural relativism far enough that it becomes meaningless, and makes everything nothing more than an opinion. That’s your right, the great thing about the internet is that we can all give an opinion, and many do. But as you say, that you have an opinion doesn’t make it meaningful, or relevant.

      In my opinion, there is by the way nothing fundamentally wrong with wanting to change things because you see clear wrongs, even if you don’t yet know where you want to end up, you can still try to stop matters going further in the wrong direction.

      • Brolloks (@brolloks) said on 18th April 2012, 10:51

        I am not attacking Keith’s opinion or his article. I made a general statement. Your last paragraph is exactly what I am talking about – what you refer to as “clear wrongs”. Who are you (or anyone else) to decide what is right and what is wrong? This is not a maths test. To this day the British and Americans go on about the Holocaust. The British seem to simply ignore the fact that they starved thousands upon thousands of Afrikaner women and children to death in concentration camps during the Boer War. Yes, it’s true, it happened.
        Look at this 7-year old girl: http://www.journalmural.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Lizzie-Van-Zyl-boers-e1291060018820.jpg

        So they were in the right and the Germans were in the wrong? I’m sorry, its not for anyone to condemn the Bahrain government. Read my last paragraph again.

        • Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 18th April 2012, 11:07

          An unneccesary argument that detracts from the point. Comparisons to the Boer War and the Holocaust is flawed in obvious ways. You wouldn’t condone an F1 race in Nazi Germany, but arguing that line is flawed so I shan’t bother with it any more.

          The point here, as the article clearly and repeatedly states, is that the Bahraini government is using F1 as a platform for its politics. That is why this argument matters, and that is why we debate what is right and what is wrong.

          • DVC said on 20th April 2012, 1:40

            There was a Grand Prix in Nazi Germany in 1939, and it was part of the European Championship (the predecessor to F1).

            Video and Race Report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENCZ9QSYK4s

            Grand Prix racing was highly political at that time. The German government funded Mercedes and Auto Union (the silver arrows) to become a symbol of German engineering superiority. The dominance and reputation of Mercedes (and Audi as part of Auto Union) is built on that political support of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Using racing for politics is nothing new, in fact you could argue that it is part of it.

            The world is made up of a broad range of people with different moralities. I believe it is for each individual to decide upon their own morality and to take a stance befitting of it. Grand Prix racing as a whole has always been fairly indifferent to the motives of its participants though, and if you are going to participate in a World Championship then perhaps you need to accept that the world is made up of elements that you may not like and that they may use racing to put across their ideas. You, of course, are free to do likewise and use the race to put across your ideas too.

            If you don’t then boycotting the race is a more powerful statement when you take a consequence from that action. The Bahrainis have a contract, they have a right to hold a Grand Prix; they are part of the World. The question is, what moral position do the individuals going to the race have, and do they feel strongly enough to boycott it when the consequence is potential loss of points or revenue?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2012, 11:10

          @brolloks

          The British seem to simply ignore the fact that they starved thousands upon thousands of Afrikaner women and children to death in concentration camps during the Boer War.

          Speak for yourself. I’m a British history graduate and I’m well aware of my country’s past.

          its not for anyone to condemn the Bahrain government

          Yes it is – I have my view, I believe it is informed and reasonable and not you nor anyone can deny me my right to express it. Of course that would not be the case if I lived in Bahrain.

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th April 2012, 11:49

            Thanks for that answer @keithcollantine.

            @brolloks, I didn’t say you attacked this post, but bringing up points that Keith already countered, without an explanation of why that’s not sufficient answer doesn’t seem like, discussion or interaction, just a repeat of moves, which made me wonder what the point of your post was.

            I think we all regularly decide what we find good, bad, or wrong. Of course, that doesn’t mean we have the right of it. In the case of the Holocaust, well, few who know the facts consider that the common opinion on that is wrong and the Nazi’s were in the right.

            The UK fighting that war on the side that history tells us had more reason to feel they were in the right doesn’t say anything about how right or wrong they were in other wars, like for example the Falklands (to mention a relatively recent event where opinion is seemingly divided between Argentina and UK supporting governments).

            Despite the Netherlands (I’m Dutch) also featuring in the Boers war, our history lessons didn’t treat it with sufficient attention for me to know if we or the British, or no one, was “the good guys”. I recently read that in the 30ties Germany also practised with concentration camps in what’s now Botswana (if I am not mistaken), it seems that in the late 19th and earlier 20the century people were starting to explore this as a way of getting rid of enemies. It is a good thing that after WWII we as a world decided such things are war crimes, and established basic human rights to fight such things happening again.

            Further about the WWII, and the period just after it. To this day, lack of information in Dutch history lessons exists for the Dutch “police” actions in Indonesia. It seems quite clear that Dutch soldiers committed very bad acts in the name of keeping our colony. Wider post-war geopolitics meant we certainly didn’t have broad support for that, and Indonesia gained independence. It is hard for people that were involved (and still living today) to accept that we as a country were wrong there, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t.

            So, to sum up this long, and quite of topic post, of course we can judge, sometimes with clear facts to base it on, sometimes not, and emotions get in the way, and all of that might change the validity and relevance of a persons judgement.

            But we do have, for good reasons, a set of guidelines to what is acceptable behaviour by governments. Depending on a lot of things, such acts might be done, and gotten away with. That doesn’t change that they were wrong, or that others should get away with them too.

          • Brolloks (@brolloks) said on 19th April 2012, 17:28

            @bosyber Please never ever again refer to the Dutch and the Afrikaners as “we”. The Netherlands were NOT part of the Boer War, which was a war of independence and freedom fought between the two sovereign Afrikaner republics of the Transvaal and Free State against the British Empire. Adventure seekers from Europe came to South Africa as volunteers from all over – France, Germany, Ireland, America, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Afrikaners are, and never have been, Dutchman. We have our own distinct language. Even when Dutch was the official language a century or so ago, it was as foreign to most as English. Perhaps even more so. But I think we are straying far from the topic now.

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 19th April 2012, 23:30

            @brolloks, I’m sorry if I hit a nerve, I didn’t intend to.

            I think though that your greater knowledge of the Boer wars confused your reading of my answer. I didn’t talk of the Afrikaners and Dutch as “we”. As I said, I recalled that there was “a” role in NL concerning the Boer war, but as I said, had no definite knowledge of what role there was. Having read a bit more now, I agree, there were what looks like adventure seekers from a lot of European countries involving themselves, including quite a few Dutch.

            Still, especially in the 2nd war, the Dutch population was supportive of the Boer effort, though the government was reluctant to do anything as trade with the British was important. Apparently queen Whilhelmina did try, in 1899 to help via Diplomatic efforts, but wasn’t able to get much traction. Not much help, I suppose. So, I was right that here people made a fuss about it (and hence we have quite a few streets, and some statues, in our cities that refer to Boer heroes), but clearly we Dutch had little influence on the outcome.

            You clearly do have a view on these wars. I am not disputing your view, just saying that in this case, I don’t know enough to make up my own mind, so I’ll have to defer to yours in this case.

            About Bahrain I also don’t have all the facts, but from all the information I do see, it is clearly not all right, and thus a race that is “UniF1ng” is way too early.

        • andae23 (@andae23) said on 18th April 2012, 11:36

          I think the difference between the South-African issues and the Bahrain-surpression is what happens if you think about the GP’s. ‘British GP’ doesn’t lead to ”South-Africa’ because people haven’t taken the British GP as a platform to protest against the things the UK has done in the past. This isn’t the case for the Bahrain GP, where there clearly is a political connection betweem the race and the issues in the country.

          • Carl Craven said on 18th April 2012, 13:12

            Good point. While F1 is an elitist sport it’s still a people’s sport in the likes of Europe, and in the case of the GB race it’s organised by former racing drivers for the most part. It is not owned nor even endorsed by the government. The Bahrain GP is a jewel in the crown of the monarchy.

        • Brolloks (@brolloks) said on 18th April 2012, 11:36

          @cornflakes It’s not clear why you view my comparisons as “inherently flawed”. I used them as analogy. Your idea that arguing about holding a GP in Nazi Germany is inherently flawed yet again refers to the point I am arguing. Why shan’t we debate the holding of a GP in Nazi Germany? You seem to be of the opinion that arguing about he pro’s of Nazism is absolutely out of the question. That is exactly what I am talking about! Why should it be? You are a liberal Englishman or whatever, I have my beliefs. Why are you allowed to declare yours but someone else is not?

          @keithcollantine As I said, I am not arguing against you or your article. If I did not love F1 or your site, I would not be here. “Incidentally”, I majored in Political Science. We all have our views, I agree with you on that, as you said – it “would not be the case if I lived in Bahrain”. Let’s debate on it. Even, as a Boer, I have a mild obsession with British rock music and comedy. It’s just the idea that certain ideas or opinions are not allowed to be declared, but others are, that I don’t understand.

          • Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 18th April 2012, 11:45

            @Brolloks I specifically said my analogy of Nazi-Germany was used in reference to the point you were arguing, and is indeed flawed – which is my point!

            Why are you allowed to declare yours but someone else is not?

            Not what I said. Why are you allowed to declare your beliefs without debate? (A healthy debate, by the way. I respect your argument just as I hope you respect mine) :)

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 11:46

            Why shan’t we debate the holding of a GP in Nazi Germany?

            Perhaps because it doesn’t exist?

          • Mars09 said on 18th April 2012, 20:03

            @Brolloks Well said

            How about Western colonialism, till now most of them still not really offer lasting solutions.

        • infy (@infy) said on 18th April 2012, 12:25

          @Brolloks +10 Fully agree with you.

          • Brolloks (@brolloks) said on 19th April 2012, 18:01

            @geemac How on earth can you compare the death camps in the Boer War to the notion of “Apartheid”. Children were starved to death in camps during the former, because the professional British army were being beaten by the rugged, God fearing fathers of those children on the battlefield.

            Apartheid is nothing more than a simple boo-word. It is simply a notion of segregation. Beautiful explanation here. The only difference is it got “a name”. Whites and blacks did not integrate (and were not allowed to) because it would inevitably lead to the collapse of white, Christian civilization – as is busy happening now. In the same way, the blacks (and they are not a homogeneous group) were allowed to protect their own culture and customs. Hell, we even went as far as giving them their own countries, but to the world it wasn’t enough.

            You cannot compare starving a child because you cannot measure up to his people, to not letting him play in another boy’s park, or to not let him go to the other boy’s school.

        • Kenny (@kenny) said on 18th April 2012, 13:11

          The British do not ignore it. I have not read any history of the Boer War, written by hostorians of any nationality ,including British, that does not include an account of the concentration camps. I have not read anyhting that even mentions the idea that the British were “in the right” re the camps (other than your statement in your comment above). No one is trying to hide the history of the Boer War from anyone.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 18th April 2012, 14:31

            Exactamundo, no one in the UK ever denies it. Having grown up in SA I’m sick of people who go on about the brutality of the Boer War concentration camps, which happened nearly a century ago, as these are often the same people (and I am by no means saying that the poster in question is one of these people) who tear into the ANC government for daring to mention “legacies of apartheid” by saying “that was over more than 20 years ago, get over it already”.

            Off topic rant over.

    • Aditya said on 18th April 2012, 13:15

      +1,especially with the US’s poor human rights record. Why only slam the Arab countries or China?? Are the developed nations of Europe or the US itself any better???

    • javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 18th April 2012, 13:56

      Just to level-set here.
      The US has THE HIGHEST quantity and proportion of people in prison – citation

      The police department in my city has guidelines ON THE BOOKS to perform warrentless invasions of privacy – citation

      Police Brutality is commonplace against political protestors – citation

      The only difference between Bahrain, and the US is better PR.
      Yet, the US is soon to have 2 F1 events on the calender. Where is the outrage for this?
      If one truly has “moral objections” to these things GO THERE AND DO SOMETHING. Boycotting a race is nothing but “armchair morality” something that makes you feel good untill you find another distraction. Either that, or a stunt of your own to avoid distain from peers.

      Put up or shut up, because these half measures and “do nothing objections” indeed, do nothing for those fighting for their rights over their.

      • enko (@enko) said on 18th April 2012, 15:25

        +1…
        The atrocities committed by developed countries are too often ignored. If we are going to object to Bahrain for a societal issue, then perhaps we should also object to the US and British races for the devastation they have dealt in there promotion of western ideology. Perhaps we should turn our sport into a political machine and or a moral barometer to determine where it should and should not go.

      • kimithechamp (@kimithechamp) said on 18th April 2012, 17:07

        @javlinsharp Full of bs. You must be one of the most ignorant kull people posting here. Which based on this thread, makes you one kull sob.

      • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 18th April 2012, 17:14

        @javlinsharp @enko Nonsense!

        1)Even if true-have all those people in jails been given fair trial in front of the jury? Are the judges independent from the decision makers? Because that’s not the case in Bahrain.

        2) Some infiltration of privacy is necessary to prevent much bigger crimes such as terror acts. It’s a pity that it took the 9/11 events to understand that.

        3) Such great citations you bring from totally impartial sources. Are you an anarchist, by the way, or just on the extreme left?

        To make comparisons of a democratic country like USA and autocratic oppressive regime like Bahrain, is misinformed at best and deliberately misleading at worst. To anarchists of course, they are all and the same. And to communists as well. Which brings me to the term “developed countries”. It’s incorrect in this aspect, and the term “democratic” should be used instead. Because despite the fact that democratic regimes can commit crimes too at least there are elements within, in whose power it is to hold those responsible accountable

        • javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 18th April 2012, 23:50

          @kimithechamp @montreal95

          You completely miss the point – which was, for your benefit, that there are plenty of nations that do waaay worst stuff to their people than Bahrain, yet nobody complains about them, and I was commenting no the hypocracy.

          I will not argue with you because 1) you have completely misunderstood my statements, 2) My statements and their supporting citations represent my own opinion and I do not expect you to share it. I do support with published facts, but I cannot force you to accept these. As an American Citizen and NYC resident I say with clear conscience, it is indeed a fact that the US and State governments put more citizens to death than ANY other western nation, only topped by China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen, and followed by Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria. That’s a good place to be, isnt it. It is a fact that the US holds more prisoners than any other nation as well.
          It is also a fact that there is no outrage on 2 GPs in the US.

          If people in Bahrain are murdered, this is truely sad. It is also true that boycotting the viewing of that GP will do nothing to stop it.

          All that said, I will indeed watch the race, and I will do so in good conscience. I choose to apply my meager “world changing energies” to the things I CAN change, my local and regional communities.

          Mine is simply a commentary on the hypocracy of those who jump on the “cause d`jour” with little understanding of history and context. If some feel so strongly, Good, go out there and do something. If not, quit polluting the airwaves with bluster and hypocracy; but, this is the internet, we can say what we want.

          By the way montreal95, “he who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither” – Benjamin Franklin

          @kimithechamp – If you think the 15 years of Iraq and Afganistan have killed only small numbers civilians, you need to crawl out from under your rock.

    • kimithechamp (@kimithechamp) said on 18th April 2012, 17:02

      Uh, didn’t know we were slaughtering “hundreds of thousands of civilians” in the middle east… Where on earth do you pull some ignorant nonsense like that from?

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 19th April 2012, 9:08

      My experience tells me that everything in a an autocratic regime is fake. Even minorities are not necessarily minorities and same is applied to majorities. I don’t know if you ever lived under an autocratic regime but nothing what you see is close to reality and for an ordinary citizen who use his/her brain it’s very frustrating.

  6. ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 18th April 2012, 10:28

    There’ll be some detractors, Keith, but once again, a professionally written article on a very sensitive on-going subject.

  7. Paulo said on 18th April 2012, 10:32

    Keith

    Congratulations! I really believe that the media opening space to discuss what really is happening is much more effective and useful to the cause than ignoring the event. Let us see how much of the mainstream media goes this way too.

  8. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 10:32

    @keithcollantine – I’m disappointed:

    Some have claimed that as long as F1 races in other countries with poor human rights records, such as China, then it must also race in Bahrain. This argument is flawed in several ways. Taking a broad view, it is a mandate for F1 to go racing in – and lend credibility to – any regime, no matter how oppressive. Make way for the Iranian Grand Prix, or perhaps a race through the streets of Pyongyang.

    I’ve probably been the most vocal about the Bahrain-China comparisons ever since the question over the 2011 race was floated. And I cannot believe that you have so fundamentally misinterpreted the basic argument.

    I – and probably most of the people who have been making these comparisons – have not been arguing that if the race in China goes ahead, then the race in Bahrain must be held as well. We never have.

    No, the argument is this: if anyone in Formula 1 chooses to make a political or moral statment about the way the Bahraini government runs its country, then it will lead toa slippery slope that could crticailly damage the image of the sport.

    Say that everyone in the sport got together and said “We condemn the violence, and we refuse to race until it stops and the government introduces reform”. It will be what the fans want, what the activists want, what the media wants, and most of all, what the protesters want.

    And when it comes time for next year’s Chinese Grand Prix, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be some activist, somewhere that says “Tibetian monks are setting themselves on fire in protest against Beijing’s policies – are you going to boycott China the way you did Bahrain?”

    As you point out, China and Bahrain are not the same. But will this matter to the activists in China? Will a detailed explanation of why this is so stop them from calling for the race to be cancelled?

    No. Not even a little bit.

    So, when Formula 1 boycotts Bahrain, is asked to do the same to China, and then refuses, what will the reaction from the activists in China be? Simple: “you refused to race in Bahrain because of human rights violations, but now you’re going ahead with the race in China despite those violations”. The entire paddock will be branded hypocrites. And it probably won’t be limited to China, either – anyone with a pet cause in a country with a race that is supported by the government will jump on the bandwagon.

    And this brings us to the punchline, so to speak: the China-Bahrain comparison is not calling for the race to go ahead in Bahrain because the race in China goes ahead. It’s to point out that making political or moral statements about the country could be very dangerous. It’s not Formula 1’s place to do that – that’s for the diplomatic community to decide.

    Which brings me to my conclusion:

    The first, last and only reason why the Bahrain Grand Prix should be cancelled is because of concerns over the safety of teams, drivers, the media and/or spectators while in the country.

    (Although if things are at the point where protesters are hulring molotov cocktails at police, setting off home-made bombs in the capital and so on, the country is well past the point of “not safe for racing anymore”.)

    I’m surprised you didn’t get that this was the basis of the entire argument, Keith.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2012, 10:40

      @prisoner-monkeys

      if anyone in Formula 1 chooses to make a political or moral statment about the way the Bahraini government runs its country

      Which they already have done, as explained in the article.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 10:58

        @keithcollantine – Last year’s race was cancelled at the request of the Bahraini motorsport foundation. The FIA followed a similar course of action, insisting that the race would go ahead until the request came though.

        You don’t think it’s possible that they are doing the same thing here, waiting for Bahrain to admit that the race cannot go ahead? If the request to cancel comes from the Bahraini authorities, it prevents the FIA from having to take a political stance on the matter. And if the race is cancelled by the authorities, they’re going to have a much harder time justifying blaming the protesters for the loss of the race than if the FIA pulled the plug themselves.

        • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th April 2012, 11:01

          @prisoner-monkeys I’ve never directly asked you this; don’t you think the FIA have already made a political statement?

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 11:07

            @damonsmedley – I won’t know the answer to that until 9pm on Sunday night (2pm local time) when the race starts. If the race starts.

            As I said in today’s round-up, the FIA’s stance can be explained by the FIA wanting the race to go ahead irrespective of the cost, which somehow requires them to bully the teams into racing, even though the teams could reasonably refuse to race without consequence because the FIA needs them more than they need the FIA. But it can also be explained by the FIA wanting the Bahraini authorities to admit that their country is in no condition to go ahead and requesting that the race be cancelled, a scenario that would require the teams to public present themselves as being in support of the race for the time being.

          • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th April 2012, 11:21

            @Prisoner-Monkeys Where are you getting this from?

            The teams normally arrive on Monday at a track for back-to-back races. They arrived on Wednesday evening to this one after staying in Dubai for the first half of the week… Does that really look like the teams are trying to show support?

            The simple answer is they’re not. There are people who are genuinely concerned for the wellbeing and then there’s the fact that the majority of the paddock is their against their beliefs. It’s a horrible situation for all involved because they’re effectively spending a weekend supporting the Al Khalifas in their quest to squash any opposition.

            And then there’s their families. How would you feel about someone you love being flown into that mess? Even if they were in no danger, I’d hate to think someone I love is being put in a position where everything they believe in is being betrayed because they simply have no choice. It’s unethical and immoral. I feel so sorry for all involved.

            And don’t forget that I’m not talking specifically about team principals (the only ones we’ve heard anything from) as they only account for about 1% of the paddock. There’s the mechanics, logistical crew, catering staff, press officers and the FOM team. Most of these people can’t argue with a team principal’s decision, but I know they are aware of the fact it’s not their principal’s decision at all.

          • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th April 2012, 11:23

            A few typos in there. Ignore!

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 11:49

            Does that really look like the teams are trying to show support?

            It looks like they are waiting until the last possible minute to enter the country. It does not, however, prove that they do not want to be there. They knew that there would be a new wave of protests starting on Monday. Given the way the protests have escalated recently to include molotov cocktails and home-made bombs, they were evidently waiting to see if something might happen that would irreversably change the situation.

          • Mike (@mike) said on 18th April 2012, 17:00

            You’d be crazy to WANT to be in Bahrain right now and you’d be crazy to argue that anyone else does.

          • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th April 2012, 19:29

            @Prisoner-Monkeys

            It does not, however, prove that they do not want to be there.

            What more proof do you want? Why would they sacrifice valuable time they could be spending preparing for the weekend if they weren’t seriously concerned?

          • Andy said on 19th April 2012, 12:03

            @Prisoner monkeys:

            I won’t know the answer to that until 9pm on Sunday night (2pm local time) when the race starts. If the race starts.

            You see a statement is one moment, a pictureshot. It isn’t; a statement is continious through time (and can change). Right now the statement is: we heard the local authorities and we concluded basicilly nothing is wrong over there (while they very well know that these are the same authorities who surpress the people over there). If the FIA does back out the last moment, it’ll probably be b/c someone involved in the F1 gets killed. Then it will be a different statement, one of safety (and damage control). However, the previous statement can’t be erased that easily. Make no mistake: the FIA is not backing out simply and only b/c then they have to pay the money back. We all know that, and nobody on this site should be denying that.

            Also: the F1 is big organisation and has the responsibility, like every public figure or organisation, to give the right example. How far they should go to give that right example is up for debate. However, when a country is having such a high civil unrest and when it basicilly gets the payment from the authorities who are surpressing the people there, we can safely assume that the F should and must take its responsibility and withdraw. And there comes the comparisation with China: The F1 can effectively act like its nose bleeds, b/c although there is a high surpressing of the people there, civil unrest is kept to a bare minimum. Most chinese, and there is a huge diversity of chinese citizens!, there are actually comfortable with their government.

      • Banburyhammer (@banburyhammer) said on 18th April 2012, 11:26

        If the first article in the FIA’s stature states that F1 cannot be used politically, then sanctons are in order, like when Turkey allowed a Turkish Cypriot dignitary to hand out prizes on ther podium – a slightly dubious sacnction id add, as I dont remember any overt politcal message being broadcast, simply that he is from Turkish Cyprus (which I know is contentious and political).

        So seeing as, in your words:

        “UniF1ed – one nation in celebration” – makes a mockery of the FIA’s claim of political neutrality. The race is being promoted as a salve for the social divisions that were exposed in the country last year.

        In local reports in the country F1 drivers are being used – most likely without their blessing – to endorse the race’s political message.

        A more serious sanction is in order? LIke the cancellation of the Grand Prix forthwith?
        This would satisfy the FIA’s dillema – here showing no political bias and punishing behaviour that politicises the GP, and therefore ommiting any inferred opnion on the political and human rights situation in Bahrain.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 10:48

      Way to ignore the point about China that nobody in China cares about the race, whereas those in Bahrain care very much- for most of the world it is Bahrain’s only export, so is being supported by the government for political reasons and directly protested over.

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 10:51

        I’ll also add, this is the reason why the Olympics was controversial- the Chinese government was very using that event, which disturbed people. You managed to miss the one distinction in the article about why the China argument was most flawed, I assume intentionally.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 10:53

        @matt90

        Way to ignore the point about China that nobody in China cares about the race

        … You were watching the Chinese Grand Prix, right? Because when the race results and championship standings were displayed on-screen, there was a clear shot of two absolutely packed grandstands. Just look a some of the photos from race day.

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 10:55

          Again, you miss the point. Nobody cares from a political viewpoint. Pretty bloody obvious what I meant, given context.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 11:02

            Sorry, that should say ‘given the context.’ The existing context in my original reply. The screamingly obvious one.

          • Mike (@mike) said on 18th April 2012, 17:02

            He didn’t so much miss it, as see it, turn away and run blindly into the arms of an unrelated argument.

        • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th April 2012, 10:58

          That’s besides the point, don’t you think? Shanghai is a massive city. If there wasn’t a big crowd, something would be wrong. And just because people like it, doesn’t mean the government do as well. But Keith’s covered it thoroughly already so anything I’d say would be merely echoing his opinion.

        • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 18th April 2012, 10:59

          That wasn’t in reply to you, @Matt90, don’t worry! :-P

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 11:05

            @damonsmedley Haha, that’s okay, I realised that. Although I agree- shouldn’t have said anything myself as Keith has already said it perfectly well already. All I’ve done is opened myself up to an onslaught where my phrasing is picked apart lol.

    • MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 18th April 2012, 11:40

      @prisoner-monkeys So an event supporting an oppressive regime isn’t political? “UniF1ed” is not political? The money won’t go to the Al Khalifa family? They won’t use it as a propaganda tool?

      The fact is, that this race is as political as it gets. If FIA wanted to remain neutral, they should have canceled it. But it’s clear they don’t want to be neutral and they have no problem whatsoever with “manifesting political discrimination”.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 11:51

        The money won’t go to the Al Khalifa family?

        No. I’m bemused that you think this is the case, because the money is paid by the al-Khalifas, not to them.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2012, 11:56

          @prisoner-monkeys The race generates hundreds of millions of dollars in an economy which is controlled and run by the Al Khalifas, who stand to gain by far the most from the race’s return this year.

          • Andrew said on 21st April 2012, 21:20

            @keithcollantine How much will you make this weekend from advertising on the website? Postering with posts like this and cancelling competitions is easy, it becomes harder when it hits the bottom line.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st April 2012, 22:05

            For obvious reasons I don’t publicise details of site earnings but at present it looks like this weekend will be much like any other from that point of view.

            People say things like “I’m not going to read your site because of your opinion on such-and-such” or “you’re only saying such-and-such to get more traffic” but as far as this weekend goes it seems to have made no difference.

            Some have suggested making a donation to an appropriate cause – that is something I’m considering and I’m open to suggestions.

    • Nigel said on 18th April 2012, 11:41

      So you don’t think “It’s all perfect in Bahrain” (B Ecclestone), or indeed “UniF1ed One Nation in Celebration” are political statements, then ?

      “You don’t think it’s possible that they are doing the same thing here, waiting for Bahrain to admit that the race cannot go ahead?”

      It’s just about possible, but given Ecclestone’s recent public statements and obvious irritation at reasonable questions from journalists on the matter, I think it highly unlikely.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2012, 11:51

        obvious irritation at reasonable questions from journalists on the matter

        I did find that quite interesting – I considered mentioning it in the article but it didn’t seem appropriate.

        Still, Ecclestone tends to give very short answers to question, or answers that bear little relation to his actions. But to be calling journalists “stupid” and swearing at them, as he apparently was last weekend, does suggest he’s feeling the pressure a bit.

    • Alex W said on 18th April 2012, 14:43

      So you would support the S.A. GP even though it was used as a sign of ligitimacy of apartheid? Sir Don Bradman and others would have disagreed… You would support the Bahrain GP if all potential dissenters were imprisoned / executed before anyone shows up , no security risk then.

    • vjanik said on 18th April 2012, 15:41

      “Some have claimed that as long as F1 races in other countries with poor human rights records, such as China, then it must also race in Bahrain.”

      Thats not the argument. the argument is that we shouldn’t be in either country. So if people are calling for the cancellation of Bahrain, but not China, they are inconsistent. Thats all.

      Thousands of people die in Chinese mines where they work as slaves. Thast just one example. Just because there are no major uprisings in china doesn’t mean everything is just fine. Same could be said about Turkey. Turks have been slaughtering Kurds for decades using US weapons. (peaked during the time of the kosovo bombing and wasnt reported much). But when Turkey got their race i hadnt seen any outrage in the media – social or mainstream.

      its good that people are taking a stand against the Bahraini government. Its a shame that this doesn’t happen in other cases, which are by no means less despicable.

      Bahrain is the main port for the US Fifth fleet. A democratic government might force them out, so naturaly they dont want that. Its in the US interest for the Al Khalifa family to stay in power. So dont expect much change in that respect.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 18th April 2012, 17:53

        I am struggling with this whole issue and feel somewhat unarmed as some make very valid points, while some seem biased, while at the same time I don’t know if all the info is accurate eg. someone who lives in Bahrain saying on this site a handful of weeks ago that it is not nearly as bad as it is being made out to be in the media, and most in Bahrain are just trying to live their lives peacefully and are happy. So I must plead ignorance as to the ‘right’ answer.

        So my questions/points are…

        The Bahrain GP has been going on since 2004. As far as I know the same monarchy or the ‘cruel regime’ as it is now being described, existed. Where was the protests globally and by F1 fans back then? The disgust at BE? Is the difference now only that last year Arab Spring woke people up, and only now it is an issue? I understand it is also about the violence toward peaceful protestors, and at the same time I can’t sort out who threw the first rock and made it violent? If it was the protestors, then I can’t support that. If the cruel regime was allowing peaceful protests until the protestors brought violence into the equation, then I’m not saying the government was right to fight fire with fire…just saying it needed to be kept civil and done through talks, as violence doesn’t solve anything. I don’t support the trashing of cities that hold G8 summits either.

        So where was the outcry in 04 and the years between up until last year?

        Is anybody really surprised that this might be about money for BE? Hasn’t it always been? Isn’t that often the case with business entities? Are they not doing what they do to make money, to a large extent? Is that not how BE has become a billionaire, yet we have supported him in bringing us the F1 we love all this time. We have even heard BE say things like dictatorship works in the sense that when one person can state how it is going to be, then that is a lot faster and more effective in getting things done than holding democratic votes for everything and having everyone’s varying opinions heard which means much does not get done as the one in charge would normally have liked. Not saying I support that…just saying should anyone be surprised at BE’s stance?

        Does the regime in Bahrain force people to stay in the country? Were they doing so in 04 or before that? That is, if it is a cruel regime and the people are in misery, why do they stay? I know they are fighting now for their rights, but I don’t have a clear picture of how they were being oppressed before Arab spring? What was life like for them in years previous to last year, including before and after 04 when F1 started there?

        Is F1 going to race in Bahrain endorsing the monarchy? Or can it not also be a statement to the world that F1 is not afraid of the cruel regime, and is going to go there to support anyone interested in F1 and to show what an entity can become in the free world, and to draw attention to the issues there? After all, F1 was there between 04 and 2010.

        I’m still confused as to why China is ok…just because it is of much less significance to them? How so? Boycotting that race would cost the Chinese Government no less than it would cost the family in charge of Bahrain in my view. Sounds like the royal family doesn’t need the money, and since they are a dictatorship the people weren’t going to see any money from the race anyway I presume?…nor would the Chinese people…just the government. But I get the impression Bahrainians are far better off in their daily lives financially and with the comforts in life than many many Chinese people are. Isn’t the issue about F1 in China about the principle of it? Not just it’s level of significance to the country?

        I’m uncomfortable being told that if I don’t stand with the protestors then I stand with those who seek to gain monetarily on the backs of their misery. What if I stand somewhere in the middle and feel that there’s room for compromise? It reminds me of the resentment I felt when Bush said (albeit to the American public, and I’m Canadian, and I paraphrase) you are either with the terrorists or you are with me. I of course would never support terrorism, but nor did I support Bush. Nor do I support any violence as a means to an end.

        I’m absolutely open to being schooled on any of these points by any of you. I think I’m leaning toward PM’s ultimate stance which is that the only reason to not go to Bahrain is if anyone in F1 and the race’s spectators are in danger of physical harm now that protests and the backlash from the regime for said protests are a reality whereas up until last year there seemed to be no harm, globally, politically, no backlash toward BE, from F1 being in Bahrain under the same regime that exists today.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th April 2012, 17:53

        To that one I would say: one has to pick its fights and start somewhere.

        So when there is a very clear and acute case of a government doing everything in its power to both quash opposition asking for change while at the same time doing a lot of PR with the race to show all is well, why not start there?

        If One wants the world to improve, its only reasonable to expect it will take a long time and go in small steps. So if we start with at least not actively supporting the opposite of that, we can then take further steps towards that goal.

        I am not saying that this is what everyone has to do, by the way. Just that it seems like a very reasonable approach to me.

    • David BR (@david-br) said on 18th April 2012, 20:12

      I’ve probably been the most vocal about the Bahrain-China comparisons

      A bit inaccurate, you mean you’ve been the most vocal (here anyhow) about making the Bahrain-China comparison the funnel through which any discussion over the ethics or politics of the Bahrain GP should be discussed.

      I think it goes a bit like this. You can pick human rights issues with almost any country on the planet, including where I live (Brazil), the UK (where I was born and raised), Norway (over whaling, say), and certainly China and the US. But there’s a vital difference between protestors wanting to stop a GP taking place at Silverstone over some issue and wanting it stopped in Bahrain. In the UK, government policy can be changed through the democratic process. But not in Bahrain. If the protestors choose the GP as a target for pressing for democratic reform, then I support them in opposing the race there. Who am I to judge by what (non-violent) means they can and should press for democratic reforms? I support democratic freedoms and freedom from government oppression and torture above any mere sporting event. The same would apply to China or, say, Brazil in the past during the dictatorship, if pro-democracy groups had called for the GP to be boycotted (I don’t know if this happened). And of course the same applied to South Africa under apartheid. So your China comparison is not invalid, it’s simply too simplistic. As most red herrings are.

    • bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 19th April 2012, 2:43

      Seriously. Its not about china.

      It is about the fact that nobody has questioned the methods of the protesters. You will find authorities use progressively stronger force directly proportional in response.

      I suggest that the protesters in Bahrain are a bunch of aggressive fools who have not received any significant international support (please don’t mention norway, they would support the launch of a radical new toilet seat).

      If the protesters were reasonable and squeaky clean protesting peacefully they would have had all sorts of support. The protesters are bot the reasonable peaceful means sort therefore are receiving no support and the swift proportional response from the authorities.

      Change needs to be brought about by the majority peacefully.

  9. Darryn said on 18th April 2012, 10:41

    People always mention China and the US in defense of going to Bahrain, but I don’t really think it is the same. Bernie won’t be out on the grid holding Rumsfeld’s bloody hands or the Chinese equivalent. In Bahrain he will.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th April 2012, 11:53

      You didn’t read my post explaining the China-Bahrain argument at all, did you?

      • Mike (@mike) said on 18th April 2012, 17:05

        Would the answer to that effect the attention you paid to his post?

      • Darryn said on 18th April 2012, 19:19

        Wasn’t at you. I guess I just don’t like seeing tyrants in dresses on the F1 grid mixing with rock stars, drivers and Bernie. I also don’t like that poster for Bahrain. UniF1ed. Todt says it’s a non-political sport, but obviously it is for the ruling family. F1 becomes a political tool in Bahrain. Not so in China or the US.

  10. Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 18th April 2012, 10:48

    Nice work Keith.

    One hopes that should the Bahraini people depose their rulers and establish a democratic government they will extend the same ideals of human rights, fair working conditions and dignity to the millions of guest workers from the sub-continent and SE Asia in Bahrains households and workplaces.

  11. WillP said on 18th April 2012, 10:50

    Fantastic article. It’s difficult to know, as an average fan, what you can do. I know I can promise not to watch (relatively easy considering the awfulness of the track) but how will anybody know, or care?

    • Lopek said on 19th April 2012, 16:45

      If enough people do it then it will show in the viewing figures & may make the sport & sponsors think more carefully next time. Admittedly it’s a long shot.

      I feel strongly that the race should not go ahead, and think that Keith has nailed the arguments against it completely.

      Given my views, I think to watch it – and so to support it indirectly – would be completely hypocritical. I won’t be. It will be the first race in my life that I can remember missing through choice – 30+ years of viewing starting with Dad as young kid.

      I’ve watched every session live since the practice sessions started being shown live, no matter the time of night. I plan my (self employed) work schedule around the Friday sessions. My holidays are fitted in the gaps in the season…

      I may be an obsessive fan, but I’m not a hypocrite. #BoycottBahrainGP

  12. andae23 (@andae23) said on 18th April 2012, 10:52

    I generally believe the FIA doesn’t want any political involvement in this, but it looks to me as if they have no choice. Formula 1 will be used as a platform for Bahrainis to express their oppinions, wether they are the oppressing leaders of the country with the message ‘we are one country’, or wether they are the protesters saying ‘this regime doesn’t make any sense to us’.

    Based on this my only conclusion can be that the race should have been cancelled for political undertones. I’m appalled and sickened by the FIA’s decision. True Formula 1 races should be entertaining, you take a break from everyday life to watch an F1-race.

    I’m going to watch the race, hoping the race itself will be the point of interest for the media.

  13. Krišjānis (@maldikons) said on 18th April 2012, 11:00

    Strange comparison between Bahrain and China – in China the moral questions of human rights can be ignored as “noone cares about the race” as opposed to Bahrain.

    So if someone steals a car from a person who already has 15 cars, he should be left free, as, most probably, he “wont care about the one car stolen as he has 15 left”.

    Besides i quit dont like this “either you are a freedom fighter or money loving moron” attidue – i think everyone know that F1 is about money.

    • Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 18th April 2012, 11:17

      So if someone steals a car from a person who already has 15 cars, he should be left free, as, most probably, he “wont care about the one car stolen as he has 15 left”.

      Read the frigging article –

      The same is not true in Bahrain. The ruling royal family who own the circuit are the same people who stand to profit from the race happening and who have crushed demands for reform over the past 14 months

      i think everyone know that F1 is about money.

      Give me one global sport that isn’t financially driven.

      • Krišjānis (@maldikons) said on 18th April 2012, 11:22

        So in China the money is spent on unicorns?

        Besides why involve the money earner if the fuss is about “human rights” – if some other Bahraini guys (not the ruling family, but, lets say, Organization of Retired Bahraini Clowns) get the money for F1 race there won’t be such outcry?

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 18th April 2012, 11:33

          Probably not, because the government might not care about the race, and might not be pushing their own political stance on it.

          • Krišjānis (@maldikons) said on 18th April 2012, 11:43

            Well in such case it would be good to be more detailed in opinion – of course it sounds nice to fight for human rights, but right now, as i understand, it is a combination of who rules the country (with human right problems – just like 1 other race country) and who get’s the money for holding the race (guess Bahrain has the uniquality card here).

      • claudioff (@claudioff) said on 18th April 2012, 13:40

        “Give me one global sport that isn’t financially driven”.

        Do you realy want to see ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the sake of exploring and breaking their limits? A global event which is not driven by money, politics or any other obscure interests? Spare some time after London 2012 and watch some of the Paralympic games. It gives me some hope for the humankind.

        • Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 18th April 2012, 15:33

          @claudioff Oh I don’t doubt that almost every athlete competing in sport, whether it is the Paralympics or F1, do so because of their passion for ‘exploring and breaking their limits’. The unfortunate truth is that they have the platform to do that because of commercially driven sports. The Olympics is bid for by countries for the advertisment, tourism and regeneration of the country. Yes, sporting excellence is also a factor. But, although I sound really cynical, nothing is done solely for sport in a capatilist world – sorry to be cynical.

          Anyway it’s easy to detract from the point of the article.

  14. Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 18th April 2012, 11:03

    An eloquently written article, one of the best I have read on this site. Commenting on political matters on a purely sporting website is a difficult and sensitive subject, yet you approached this excellently. I hope other media sources read, cite, and distribute your article.

  15. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 18th April 2012, 11:13

    Great article, sumps up pretty much everything about this whole mess.

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