Having cancelled the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain, where a vicious and bloody crackdown against anti-government protestors has been underway for months, the sports governing body last week reinstated the race for October.
However, with several teams refusing to accept the rescheduling the race has again been cancelled, much to the chagrin of the Bahrain government.
While the official reasons given by the teams are difficulties with logistics, and safety concerns, the backdrop of human rights abuses is inescapable.
This is what one outspoken Formula One driver, Mark Webber, had to say on June 4 (between the reinstatement of the race and its second cancellation):
“My opinion is unchanged since I was first asked about this in late February. Even though a decision has been made, I’ll be highly surprised if the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead this year.
“In my personal opinion, the sport should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year rather than constantly delaying its decision in hope of being able to re-schedule it in 2011. It would have sent a very clear message about F1’s position on something as fundamental as human rights and how it deals with moral issues.
“It’s obvious that the parties involved have struggled to reach a decision but sadly I feel that they still haven’t made the right one. Like it or not, F1 and sport in general isn’t above having a social responsibility and conscience. I hope F1 is able to return to Bahrain eventually but now isn’t the right time.
“As a competitor I do not feel at all comfortable going there to compete in an event when, despite reassurances to the contrary, it seems inevitable that it will cause more tension for the people of that country. I don’t understand why my sport wishes to place itself in a position to be a catalyst for that.”
See his comment, and numerous messages of support from F1 fans, here.
And this is what Max Mosely, a former president of the FIA, the sports governing body, had to say (see his full op-ed here):
“Surely [a] line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions.
“If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula One allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime's guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters.
“Having carried out [its] horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That's where the Grand Prix comes in. By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.
“By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government's instruments of repression. The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear.”