Missing the Apex – Why Formula 1 should not race in Bahrain

It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines, or in this case in my office, and make comments and judgements on issues many miles away. The joy of the internet is that the world is now a much more accessible place; the downside is that it is easier than ever to merge facts with fictions.

Just over a week ago, I posted on Twitter that it is “Time for #F1 to get some balls. Sport and politics shouldn’t be mixed”. I followed this up a few days later by saying that “By sanctioning the GP to go ahead, @fia are allowing politics into sport. Both sides will use it and drag F1 through the mire”.

As I say, it’s incredibly easy to sit in a place well removed from an issue and pass judgement; it’s even easier when your opinion doesn’t carry any weight. Nevertheless,  I have an opinion and I’m going to voice it.

History, bad history, has so often told us that individuals and regimes will use the attraction of sport to promote agendas. Only a few days ago, one person with a particular view of the way that life is conducted here in the UK managed to promote himself by disrupting the annual Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race. The attention of the media then, and immediately following was not on the sport, it was on the protest. So what do Jean Todt and the FIA seriously think the outcome will be if the Grand Prix of Bahrain goes ahead?

I haven’t been to Bahrain recently so I can’t comment on the real issue; the protests, the deaths, the beatings and the intimidation. All I know is that Bahrain is like so many other of the Arab states that I’ve been to; the people are industrious and they are passionate about life and family. So the inevitability that young and old, men and women will use extreme measures to highlight their cause when the F1 circus brings the attention of the world upon them means that the sport has already played a role, but it should not now be cast as the villain.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, who has a significant investment in the success of the Grand Prix, told the Bahraini News Agency: “The prize is more important than a sporting event and it must not be used for political ends.” Well he’s right, and he’s wrong, because he believes that F1 will unify the tiny kingdom; I believe it will only serve to drive ideologies and violence, possibly worse. I hope I’m wrong.

Steve Hindle

17th April 2012

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