Bahrain 2011 Gets the Go-Ahead: FIA Chooses Dollars over Morality

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Bahrain 2011 Gets the Go-Ahead: FIA Chooses Dollars over Morality
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
No U-Turn - unless you're the FIA!

Bahrain will have its 2011 Grand Prix. It will be a little late, but better late than never when it comes to grubbing as much money as humanly possible out of a Formula 1 season.

In a decision that beggars belief, the World Motor Sport Council—part of the FIA—unanimously decided that the race should go ahead, because apparently the repression of the island nation’s people has ended and everyone is friends again.

And just how did they come to this conclusion? Apparently the FIA sent a fact-finding mission to Bahrain and asked people. “Who were these people?” I hear you ask.

According to Formula1.com:

"Meetings were conducted with the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Bahrain Motor Federation and Bahrain International Circuit, as well as other national and international organisations including Mr. Tariq Al Saffar at the National Institute of Human Rights. It should be noted that the recent announcement by the King of Bahrain has established a political dialogue and reconciliation process.

"After considering all the factors and taking into consideration all stakeholders’ concerns, the WMSC unanimously agreed to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix in the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship."

So, that would be representatives of the government that was repressing its people, people with a vested interest in the race going ahead and a bloke appointed by the government to be part of a sham Institute of Human Rights which, like the Orwellian Ministry of Truth, is dedicated to the exact opposite.

This institute on which the WMSC has singularly failed to push the cause of human rights and the members were all appointed by the King himself. New York Times blogger, Robert Mackey, sees it this way, “While Bahrain’s independent human rights organizations have been ordered to stop working and leading activists have faced trials in military courts, the National Human Rights Organization has been steadfast in its support of Bahrain’s government.”

The teams themselves are reportedly unimpressed with the decision and they have a number of reasons for being so.

To make way for this race, the inaugural Indian Grand Prix has been moved to be the season finale—in December!

It’s difficult to understand what the motivation for squeezing the race in this year could be—or maybe not. Even assuming that there had been significant change, there is no overwhelming reason to shoehorn the race in this year. If you are going to reinstate the race, do so next year.

Of course, there’s always the money angle. F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, however, was quick to dismiss the notion. 

According to ESPNF1, Ecclestone said the decision has ,"Nothing to do with money at all. Nothing, in any shape or form."

Sadly, if we are to take that statement at face value, at least money would have been an understandable, if morally bankrupt, reason for going ahead. It’s hard to imagine any other reason for doing it.

As F1 fans, the more races there are in a season, the happier we should theoretically be. But, there must come a point when there are too many races and the season is too long.

There should also be some room for making a moral stand. While sport and politics should remain separate, that separation should extend to steadfast refusal to be swayed by platitudes and thin veneers of change.

Within hours of the announcement by the WMSC, there was again unrest on the Bahraini streets. Nothing of significance appears to have changed and therefore the original reasons for not going to Bahrain remain.

Let’s hope that the teams have more moral fibre than the FIA and refuse to go.

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