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Monday, 16 April 2012

Business and Show over People? Formula 1 racing in Bahrain

It was not clear until last weekend if Formula 1 is going to race in Bahrain or not. Time was running out for logistics, the turmoil and riots in Bahrain against the authoritarian regime were going on, and the security forces were violently cracking down protesters. Also, reluctant voices about the security of drivers, team members, journalists and everyone else involved in the vast F1 circus have increased.

Then, during last weekend’s race in China, Bernie Ecclestone announced that F1 will race in Bahrain the next weekend, judging the security situation in the Gulf state as safe. To quote Ecclestone: “There's nothing happening (in Bahrain), I know people that live there and it's all very quiet and peaceful."

You really have to avoid reading the newspapers or turning on the TV to claim that nothing is going on there. Or you are suffering from severe loss of common sense, combined with greed for business and profit. Those attributes fully meet the personality of Bernie Ecclestone and modern Formula 1.

Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was already cancelled because of the effects of the Arab Spring in the country. However, F1 cancelled the race due to the lack of security at that time. It should be noted that security did not significantly improve this year. The thing is that the event organizers know very well that if this year’s race is being cancelled again, there will be no more races in Bahrain again.

Although critical voices arise in media and everyone involved in Formula 1, none of the F1 heads actually seems to be bothered about the security risk or the dimension of the riots going on in Bahrain, and as it turns out, F1 lacks political and humanitarian sensitiveness. A catering employee of the Williams Renault Team was even fired for having mentioned “moral concerns” to travel to Bahrain.
On the other hand, three television stations announced not to Travel to Manama: The German SKY division, the finish TV station MTV3, and Fuji TV.

If Ecclestone believes that the grandstands will be crowded with people for the race, he might be wrong this time. The only places you will find people in Bahrain are the streets and the roofs of buildings (such as the British Embassy) – protesting against the race. Formula 1 proves once again that business must go on, and that human rights do not fit with the shiny and glamorous world of F1 business.

This is the way to lose fans, supporters, and paving an ultimate way to destroy this great sport I have been a fan of for nearly 20 years - and now I'm seriously considering of leaving it for good.

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