Bahrain — What’s So Special About Its Formula 1 Race?

There is an awful lot of debate still ongoing about the running of the F1 in Bahrain. The pretty odious Bernie Ecclestone , whose hobbies include comparing women to domestic appliances and praising Hitler has said that the raging battles for democracy in the state are nothing to do with him.  There has been an ongoing uprising  in Bahrain for a year, with a particular Irish interest in the relationship the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has had with the country.  The evidence of torture by police and security is so overwhelming that even a state-sponsored commission admitted it was there.

Why the fuss however over Bahrain? This year the F1 races will take place in a large number of states with pretty ropy human rights records. I don’t recall a huge fuss about running F1 races in

  • Malaysia, where judicial caning is a punishment and where press freedom is severely curtailed
  • China, well where does one start?
  • Singapore, where again press freedom (see world press freedom Index) is low
  • Abu Dhabi, where as with many countries homosexuality is illegal.
  • The USA, a country with the highest percentage imprisonment rate in the world, where the death penalty still is used and where children as young as 14 can be tried as adults
  • Brazil one might note has persistent problems with its record on prisoners and indigenous peoples rights and one might even suggest Hungary is emerging as possessing new Secret police modelled on the old style.

I have never been of the view that sport and politics are separate.  Nor should sports organisations pretend that in bringing events to countries they will not in some way be or be see to be endorsing at best the legitimacy and at worst the policies therein. The sporting boycott on the apartheid regime in South Africa played a small but honourable role in first highlighting then pressurising and finally ending that system.

Maybe it’s time to consider such again.



Note: This is a cross post from Brian’s blog, here.


Previously on Bock:
RCSI Refuses to Comment as Doctors and Nurses Tortured and Imprisoned in Bahrain

6 thoughts on “Bahrain — What’s So Special About Its Formula 1 Race?

  1. Having lived in the middle east for some time (currently in Saudi), Bahrain stands out as one of the shining lights in the region. It even made rolling stones top 10 cities for vice recently I think. Before the Arab spring Al Khalifa had progressive policies. The were set on developing as a nation not dependant on fossil fuels.
    I’m not saying what they are doing currently is right, but I fear what may come after Al Khalifa. Be careful what you wish for and I’ll reserve judgement until I see what eventually comes out of Egypt and Libya.

  2. Hi Tim
    Point taken but it doesnt mean we shouldnt protest. They may be the best of a bad lot but….

  3. I’m not sure what to think about this. How will we decide what country has an acceptable human-rights record? You could make the case that by failing to legislate for the X case, Ireland continues to deny women their rights and should therefore be boycotted.

    If we take this to its ultimate conclusion, we might end up with all major world sporting events being perpetually held in Sweden.

  4. I found Bernie Ecclestone’s justification of the event very patronising.
    It shows him to be from another planet if he thinks we believe his guff.
    I remember when rugby’s fascists justified touring South Africa by saying sport and politics are distinct.
    That seemed to change when some of Ireland’s international players made an ad
    urging us to vote “Yes” in the second Lisbon referendum.
    So now that we’ve flipped again, I can only assume that sport and politics mix when
    it suits the bosses.

  5. Bernie Ecclestone has only ever had one guiding principle, what’s good for Bernie Ecclestone, he would put Sepp Blatter in the halfpenny place.
    For me F1 is up there with Golf…. a sport?

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