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Bahrain cancellation raises bigger issues

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David Bond | 19:16 UK time, Monday, 21 February 2011

Both the Bahrain Royal Family and Formula 1 had no choice but to call off the season's opening race in the kingdom on 13 March.

With blood already spilled and no sign of the anti-government protests on the streets of Manama ending, it would have been wholly inappropriate if the sport had tried to carry on as if it was business as usual.

Formula 1 is often accused of being out of touch with reality and of living in its own bubble.

And while the decision was ultimately one for the country's crown prince - Bernie Ecclestone risked costing the sport almost £40m in lost staging fees if he had pulled the plug - F1 will be relieved it has averted a crisis which would have, once again, called into question the judgment of its rulers.

Despite that F1 will feel the impact of the decision less severely than the Bahrain government who have invested so much in bringing the sport to their country.

It also raises issues about sport's move into the Middle East and other emerging countries.

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Predicting where next for the protests, which have already led to regime change in Tunisia and Egypt and which are now sweeping through Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, is clearly not a matter for the sports editor.

But there will be plenty of sports eyeing developments in the region nervously.

The Middle East has become a major player in sport in the last decade with the European Golf Tour now ending its season in Dubai, major tennis tournaments in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and, of course, football's 2022 World Cup now headed for Qatar.

All these countries have used international sport to not only promote themselves as tourist destinations and emerging economies but also to legitimise their regimes in the eyes of the rest of the world.

For sport the attractions are obvious. Money - lots of it - and the chance to break into new markets.

But where should sport draw the line? Should it be oblivious to questions of human rights and politics?

In the case of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the International Olympic Committee argued taking the Games there would open up China's authoritarian communist regime.

It may still be too soon to judge the IOC on that but early evidence does not suggest an awakening of democratic principles on the back of Usain Bolt's lightning fast performances in the Bird's Nest.

The strong likelihood is the F1 roadshow will roll back into Bahrain before the year is out or in time for the start of the 2012 season.

But Monday's decision shows sport's ambition to break into new territories cannot ignore the risks of the real world.


  • Comment number 1.

    Not one of Mr Bond's finest...

    States the blindingly obvious in a very simplistic manner..what a wasted opportunity for a real journalistic piece on a highly interesting topic.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well you know bernie, only goes where the money is regardless of the countrys state of affairs. i reckon him and Sepp Blatter have a lot in common

  • Comment number 3.

    If the bubble doesn't get pricked it'll just carry on as usual.
    Since when have morals, political or otherwise, had anything to do with F1 in the past BE years.

  • Comment number 4.

    Surely it could be argued that we are too keen to judge other political systems. The levels of abuse within our own may be better tidied up than energy spent judging others positions.

    Sport has proved to open doors where diplomacy fails. The influence of challenge of core values and cultures may be started by open minded engagement in international sporting activity. If we discourage this, we will not only lose out on the opportunity to improve our own western culture, but we will never see a true world championship, but a "western culture" championship.

    Personally I prefer the World Championship. We can learn from these so called "emerging nations" with their thousands of years of their own cultures. Some of them apparently "emerged" when we were still in mud huts!

  • Comment number 5.

    Bernie has never used morals has he? He can cut a Grand Pirx from a Country and then choose another one to replace it.
    This is the man who threatened to drop the best Overseas Race (Australia) if they didnt have a night race, the man who 'killed' Donnington and also messed Silverstone around.
    But maybe its time for F1 to realise that we dont need so many races in the Middle East...MotoGP just sticks with 1 - Qatar.
    F1 needs just the One, time for Bahrain to go and just stick with Abu Dhabi as it looks like the UAE isnt going to go into a state of emergency any time soon.

  • Comment number 6.

    How have you become a journalist with such obvious information. LOL.

  • Comment number 7.

    Who cares about Bahrain anyway? Boring race. Only devastating thing is that we have to wait longer for a race now! :/

  • Comment number 8.

    The Middle East GPs are so boring.
    Good riddance.
    Bring back Magny-Cours, Imola & Donnington. They were proper circuits.

  • Comment number 9.

    The fawning to rich or powerful autocratic regimes is despicable. Saudi Arabia. Libya. Bahrain. A world stuck in the Middle Ages makes for a great pageant. We should be ashamed. Blatter. Ecclestone. Dinosaurs? Worse; quislings.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think that Mr Bond has put forward a succinct summary of the position regarding the situation in Bahrain and suspect that he was in no way as sports editor (as he mentioned, it's not his field) commenting upon the whys and wherefores of of the current unrest in that country.

    I agree with with the cancellation of the event and applaud the decision of the Crown Prince of Bahrain. One has to be realistic, surely? Firstly: Who's going to turn up and watch when the country is in turmoil? Secondly: Given the unrest, carefully planned logistical strategies would become unusable as, undoubtedly, many local residents who would normally be involved would be either unable or unwilling to perform the duties to which they had previously committed.

    In my opinion those two reasons alone would suffice to call the whole thing off.

  • Comment number 11.

    I Can't see that Bahrain will return before 2012. The Schedule is so tight
    I can't see where it would fit unless they abadon the August shutdown and hold it on the 14th or 21st of August?

  • Comment number 12.

    9. At 10:09pm on 21 Feb 2011, Nic Oatridge wrote:
    The fawning to rich or powerful autocratic regimes is despicable. Saudi Arabia. Libya. Bahrain. A world stuck in the Middle Ages makes for a great pageant. We should be ashamed. Blatter. Ecclestone. Dinosaurs? Worse; quislings.
    Already I have seen a piece on the fall of Egypt and how it will affect their national team. Now this! This is a sorry excuse for journalism. A complete side stepping of the issues involved. A broadcasting company ready to report of the sex lives on footballers as being relevant to the game, and you can't even raise a whimper about the incredibly injust regimes of the middle east? You can't even give a word toward the complete disregard of the declaration of human rights and you decide to attempt to paint Bernie Ecclestone as some sort of wonderous individual for saving the sport 40million quid. Not only is formula 1 removed from the reality of the majority of people who watch, this blogger seems to be completely removed from the reality of what Formula one is and what is happening in the middle east. Given your background in Economics, I would have thought you would have had more insight, and a bit more moral courage to stand up and call it like it is. Enjoy your champagne at the British grand prix

  • Comment number 13.

    "I'm David Bond, the BBC's Sports Editor. This blog will give you an insight into the big stories and issues in sport. "

    The only thing accurate about that phrase is your name. Insight? What insight have you given us about Bahrain and Formula 1? Please enlighten me.

  • Comment number 14.

    Speaking as someone who was at the 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix and LOVED the experience, the fact that the 2011 race has had to be cancelled due to local politics is gutting and embarassing/humiliating for both F1 and to a lesser extent, those of it's fans who genuinely didn't think the island 'had' such issues!

    You have to wonder, if you were to go back in time to circa 2003 and tell Bernie about the events of the past week or so, would he have still agreed to do a deal for a Grand Prix in the country.

    Having said that, if the race had gone ahead, I wouldn't have been celebrating either. I've been an F1 fan longer than I've been interested in current affairs but but let's face it, whoever and whatever these revolutionaries are - holding the race in these circumstances would have been a gamble.

    Before this evening's announcement my best case scenario was that the race would go ahead, the weekend would go smoothly and the icing on the cake would have been a McLaren 1-2.

    My worst case scenario was that the race would go ahead only for F1(drivers, fans,team staff or all of the above) to get caught in the middle of the conflict between the Bahraini authorities and revolutionaries. There are so many ways that could have happened and all of them would have been a devastating nightmare to all associated with the sport.

    For me, the news of the Bahrain Grand Prix being cancelled was my saddest moment as an F1 fan since Imola '94. It is history being made for the wrong reasons, it is something that was dare I say it unimaginable 'anywhere' even as recently as this time last year and while I don't expect Bernie to have regrets, he has a lot of thinking to do about the future of the sport. His drive to bring F1 to new, less traditional locations has just suffered a flat tyre.

    At the 2010 race I believe Eddie Jordan was talking about the Middle East as the new home of F1. What now?

    This is not a good evening to be an F1 fan. I am one of those who believes that politics divides more than it unites and sport unites more than it divides. Therefore all sport should try to be above politics. Yet the sport still averted it's biggest ever disaster.

    The weekend of March 13th will feel empty. Yet F1 has only suffered a flesh wound. Its recovery will be relatively smooth and there are now clear skies ahead till Melbourne on the 27th. An opening race where the tension will purely be due to anticipation of the racing that'll take place.

    Doesn't sound so bad after all.

  • Comment number 15.

    Increasingly Formula One locations are chosen for non sporting, money-related reasons. This sort of thing is likely to happen in those circumstances and tests the motivation of those engaged in the direction of the sport. Sadly, they will be found wanting because their greed transcends any feelings they may have for the sport.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have just seen the link to the hi-lights of the 2010 race and for some reason I watched it.

    I can confirm that the race condensed to 9 minutes didn't make it any better.

    On a more positive note the documentary 'Driven' about Graham Hill was excellent. This can be seen on iplayer.

    As for the race it won't be missed but it is good to see that the oppressed are making a change. The bloodshed is tragic but unavoidable if there is to be regime change.


  • Comment number 17.

    To be honest no loss really from the calender, from what i remember it was a boring race last year! long live the classic tracks that aren't a mile wide and have huge run off areas, the classics provide the real exciting races!

  • Comment number 18.

    my biggest issue with moving a lot of these F1 races to the middle east is that is one poltical in the nature of these governements. However also from a long term sporting econmic reasons that is who is going to these events e.g. there is so few spectators at the races which are not good to watch. In such these are state subisdised events for a sport which really should be able to survive on supponsorship, TV and Ticket sales. I have no probelm with races in India and the US given the massive possible market for the manufactures and the sponsers.

  • Comment number 19.

    have to agree with the first comment here...could have torn apart this topic however chose to skirt around it.
    Interesting how we condemn regimes in other countries yet criticise our own sports' capitalist motivations for money. I for one can see both arguments-although i'm a bit of a traditionalist (world cup would have been epic here), I suppose every country who can afford to stage an international sport should be given the opportunity.
    Would just like to ask...does anybody seriously believe that these protests and regime changes will actually have any difference? I rate most of the countries will simply have the same thing under a different name. We complain about a lot in the UK, but at the end of the day, I wouldnt want to hail from anywhere else

  • Comment number 20.

    People only call Bahrain boring because of the 2010 race. Now that mid-section has been removed again, the track is not half-bad. It's better than Magny-Cours, which someone in a post above wants to bring back! NO!!!! Magny-Cours was never exciting!

    It's best for all concerned that the Bahrain GP is called off for present. I hope it gets rescheduled for later in the year, or another event stands in instead, but who knows?

  • Comment number 21.

    I think people need to decide between sport and politics here... Sport, as MGUK82 says, unites. If a game football on a christmas morning between the trenches during the first world war could stop nations from fighting with each other, then so can any sport create both chances and admiration for the people, and above all something that the nation can get behind and create harmony.

    Does anyone care if you are a Chelsea fan, or a Man City fan during the world cup? For two months every 2 years, the nation has an equally horrible, yet hugely communal time when the nations football team goes and loses on penalties, or under performs, yet the hope of the nation is the same as with every country involved.

    Bernie may be thinking about money, but he's got a point trying to globalise the sport. I'm glad the grand prix was cancelled, but leave India, China, Turkey, Singapore, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Korea out of it. It seems like to a lot of people here, they'd prefer to see them go too, for the sake of tradition.

    The times are changing, you better get used to it.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Whilst I agree that sport cannot ignore the risks of the real world this also applies to businesses in general including the oil business.Don't simply single out sport for these comments.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm going to speak in defence of Bernie Ecclestone here.

    Politcal situations have forced Grand Prix to be removed from the calendar before, most notably the South African race in 1985 due to Apartheid, and I think the Argentine race was scrapped at around the same time. Both returned to the calendar in the 90s when the countries' affairs had calmed down. So he does have some sense of morals.

    Bernie is now effectively an agent for the commercial rights owners. That company paid a fortune for those rights, so now they have to recover their costs somehow. Naturally the government-funded newer races can afford to pay more for the honour of hosting a Grand Prix, so that's where Bernie has to take the races to. He is not, as FoxesofNuneaton - Save 606 says in comment #5, the man who killed Donington. That was Simon Gillett, the project leader, who promised false finances for months on end and never delivered. We probably have Bernie to thank for still having a British Grand Prix; I can't help but feel if anyone else from the rights holders had been in charge of the calendar Silverstone would have been gone along time ago. Now we have at least another 9 years, possibly 16, at Silverstone.

    His negotiating tactic is to threaten races, and he usually gets his way, because they improve facilities and pay up. It's now the Melbourne authorities who want rid of the race because they lose millions on it every year- and they pay far less for their race than some countries.

    I do agree that some of these new races shouldn't be on the calendar, not because they produce poor races (Magny Cours hardly produced thrillers every year) but because they are poorly attended, and there are fans in European countries who would beg to have an F1 race to go to.

  • Comment number 25.

    Agree with Gus, 09:08 (post 1). Mr Bond's usual light-weight blather sells short proper discussion of a mounting problem. The silly iterations after the initial Qatar/FIFA decision illustrate the pitfalls ahead.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Pretty poor piece as usual.

    Regards F1, and more importantly Bernie. The decisions are all purely commercial. F1 has become a manufactured outcome designed to attract the biggest number of spectators / followers and mop up the most amount of money. Unfortunately it has often degenerated into a freakshow rather than a sport, and the continuing changes to the regulations on cars and performance should really mean the sport looses it's moniker.

    Some rich, like minded, people could quite easily put together a series comprising races at the classic grand prix circuits around the world that Bernie has discarded at one time or another over the years. Silverstone, Mangy Cours, Paul Ricard, Spa, the old Hokenhiem, Brands Hatch, Pheonix Arizona, Adelaide etc. Cars could run with decent size wings and fat slick tyres and there would be real overtaking again. Yes it would be more dangerous. It should be a dangerous sport. That's the point. Then maybe we would have some truly great world champions again. People who could laugh in the face of death and who the public could truly hold in awe.

  • Comment number 28.

    I've been watching F1 for 38 years - can tell you the nuances of drivers, cars championships in all that time and can probably name the 1st 6 drivers in each GP for the last 35 years. All this time I've watched the commercialisation and sterilisation of the sport - I'm not asking for death or injury (I vividly remember being traumatised by the death of Cevert/Pryce/Peterson/villeneuve), but there is a distinct lack of standout in the sport - where is the romance of Clermont-Ferrand/Brands Hatch/Nurburgring/Ostereichring/Mosport/Watkins Glen/Anderstorp? Thes great venues have been replaced with Bahrain/China/Singapore/Turkey and a whole host of similar soul-less sterile venues that are simply prepared to fund the parasitic Ecclestone. When will this Dinosaur step down like Mubarak and his like?
    Are you telling me that there is no-one who can take teh helm and who can who can combine the glamour and romance of the above venues with today's need for commercialism? Get rid of Ecclestone - he only looks after himself - Formula 1 needs to get back to the Glamour and spectacle that made it famous and revered in the first place, not inhabited by corporate robots and self-interested meglomaniacs like Ecclestone. Yes Ecclestone was there in the past but he was a mechanic and then Brabham team owner and personally involved in the sport - not the parasite he has become now. So Yes I'm very happy one of Ecclestone's no doubt very forgettable races has fallen over...

  • Comment number 29.

    This is an outrageously simplistic view of the Middle East. The region is not one homogenous block; Abu Dhabi is not Libya, Dubai is not Yemen and Qatar is not Tunisia. In the 1990’s Yugoslavia was tearing itself apart, but people who have not thought twice about going to watch a football match in North East Italy – just across the border. Let’s not confuse an already complicated set of circumstances with poorly thought out sweeping statements.

  • Comment number 30.

    They can't just race here like nothing is happening, the government is killing peaceful people and for what, just because they asked for their rights. It is not about if our circuit is as beautiful as Spa or whatever, people are dying here and this might be new for you but killing peaceful protestors is not new in bahrain, no not at all, this happened in the 70's, 80's, 90's and through to this new millenium.

    Some people who wrote here are acting if Bahrainis lifes are worthless. Bahrainis are different and maybe one day we will have our freedom to realize our full potential.

    You europeans had you revolutions and managed to get you freedom, we want the same,

  • Comment number 31.

    To be fair to Mr. Ecclestone he really could not have seen the political turmoil which has engulfed North Africa and the Middle East in recent months.
    The initial contract to stage a Grand Prix in Bahrain was signed several years before. However it does bring about an interesting question as to whether more thought should go into the process of deciding which countries are allowed to stage a Grand Prix?
    Surely there has to be other considerations other than just money?
    A little research into the history of Bahrain would have highlighted the human rights issues, sectarian violence and suppression of the Shia majority by electoral corruption.
    Surely the protection of the Formula One brand has value to Mr. Ecclestone and CVC partners? After all the sport has many global brand names which do not want to have their corporate identities diminished by being seen to publically support a regime which supresses free speech and democracy.
    Rather in the last few years the sport and it's commercial partners have been happy to live in blissful ignorance of what Bahrain and it's authorities, who have funded the Grand Prix, really stand for.
    Formula One regularly fails to cover itself in glory when it comes to political issues, which is rather suprising given everyone involved in Formula One has so much practice at it. This current issue only serves to accentuate the perception that Mr. Ecclestone, for all his business acumen, remains a political lightweight as does Jean Todt and the FIA who simply decided to go on holiday when the big calls had to be made about Bahrain.
    Formula One has become a mercenary sport with Grand Prix sold to the highest bidder all so CVC partners can maximise profits.
    Morality, business ethics and political reality seem to feature very low on the list of priorities when deciding on where to stage a race which is ultimately damaging the image of the sport.
    It's time Mr. Ecclestone and CVC partners started to follow a code of business ethics when deciding on which countries can host a race, rather than just how much they can pay for the privelege.
    Maybe then Mr. Ecclestone might realise the value of Formula One as a brand extends far from the reach of the income statement and balance sheet of CVC partners.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Surely sports should turn their back on these countries with human rights issues, rather than go their to promote themselves in the hope it may lead to a fairer society in the future. During the Apartheid years South Africa was expelled from many major sports, not rewarded with a World Cup or Grand Prix.

  • Comment number 34.

    What this calls for is revolution... let the people who love F1 rise up and get rid of the regime that is led by Bernie Ecclestone...

  • Comment number 35.

    Like many who have posted here I too have watched this sport for many years during which time it has moved away from individualality to an attempt to creat a harmoginised/americanised racing series where teams buy off-the-shelf cars and race on off-the-shelf tracks (seriously, with a blank sheet He-Who-Must-Be-Hired can't design tracks where cars can actually over-take!?!).

    Bernie has taken a sport that was known for outstanding individual preformances where designers can design with-in a set of rules and drivers can dare to overtake and try and win to a series where everything, and I mean everything, is measured to such an extent that when a designer actually makes a leap forward the damned tests are changed to try and catch them out! Where drivers can't overtake for fear of stewards, who may or may not be nursing grudges, damn them for dangerous driving. After his ministrations whats left is something tame by conparision to what he started with. Safty aside, for no-one would argue for a return to dangerous practices, the reasons given, monetary or ecological, have no place in a sport that, these days we must say was..there to push boundaries of what was possable to do when you put a man in a car and told him to go as fasst as he can.

    And this tame 'beast' now shaped beyound recognition to be as 'accessable' to as many TV viewers as possable, is touted around the globe, to countries no less, with the highest bidder being granted the 'prestige' of holding a race. A demicratic country, where the leaders are accountable, litteraly in some cases (MP expenses ring any bells?) are far less likly to make the decision to build a track and then possably subsadise the race to the tune of millions, regardsless of any tourisam benefit (we all know the media in ANY free country LOVES to flog the negatives as misery sells). A country governed by a dictator of any ilk, be they monarchs or generals, is far easier to do a deal with. You don't have to deal with commities or changing faces as elections come round, instead, for example, you get to deal with the dictator's son who is granted permission to spend millions to fulfil his childhood fantasy, like another toy given at Christmas. A single person who can spend money like water and we are actually surprised that after so many slots have been sold to countries like that we find our sport a race down for the season and only not caught up in the revolution by a matter of weeks?

    The real wonder here is that it didn't happen sooner. After all, if a disgruntled ex-employee of Mercades could work out the power of disrupting a race, imagine what a revolutionary council might do with a global platform like that. Why didn't this blog deal with that side of this sorry affair?

  • Comment number 36.

    @Fun_Bob_NI No sports should not turn their back on these countries. Although admittedly sports bring a huge influx of money to the ruling elites, the principal advantage of sport is the whole spectacle - the excitement surrounding and during the event - which the people benefit from. South Africa was a completely different situation as segregation was prevalent and most importantly could be viewed for all to see by the international community in sports - most notably Rugby Union. The Middle East however is a sports mad region, which before F1, tennis and now many other sports were drawn by the big bucks, was not able to view or benefit from any sort of sporting event. It is now only the oil rich gulf countries such as Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE that can afford to host such events. This should not be taken away from the people. Many Arabs will know more about your football club, your F1 team, such is their enthusiasm for sport, and because they do not have the opportunity to view a decent class of sport in the majority of countries in the region, they turn to countries further afield. There is no better way for the quality of sport to improve than to witness major sporting events, and in turn for the world to witness the people hosting it.

    However, I feel the majority of people have missed the point of why the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled. It has nothing to do with human rights violations, but simply due to the fact that there is civil unrest (it is not sport's concern why this has occurred). It was right to be cancelled.
    I see people's concerns with major sporting events being held in a politically unstable region if they keep continuing to be cancelled - but this is the first cancellation. The first (perhaps only) cancellation during what could be a movement to end this political instability, I would say is certainly a promising sign for the region. Yet even if the region continues to be unstable in general, there is no way that sport should be taken away from the people - it would only add to their suffering.

  • Comment number 37.

    Whatever happened to Mihr Bose - a man who always used to write articles of this nature with such depth and wisdom

  • Comment number 38.

    Your choice of countries that host sporting events shows a lack of knowledge in the region. The UAE and Qatar are the least likely countries to see such political unrest!

  • Comment number 39.

    F1 is a sport, but it cannot be ignored that there is a significant business side to this where F1 is regarded only as a product to be sold. No problem with this in my view and there is no reason as far as I can see that should stop F1 from doing business with these nations just because there is a different structure of power. There are no embargos being broken here.

    The only people who can change their country are the people in that country and it is highly pretentious to think that the FIA or others should start to use F1 to highlight perceived faults with different regimes by not holding races.

    Don't forget F1 and teams also does not want to be associated with despots and dictators because of sponsors etc. either so it is a two way street.

    Any viewer whose perception of a nation can be changed just because a nation holds a sporting event are ill informed at best and ignorant at worst.

  • Comment number 40.

    I think we can all agree Bernie goes where the money is… If you look at the GP calendar, Bahrain, South Korea, China, Singapore, India, Abu Dhabi, Japan. You can’t blame Bernie 100% because some of these countries have been propped up by Western Governments (and one propping up Western governments buying up their debt).

    At the same time I agree with some of the comments, Bahrain (go on last years race) is rather a boring one anyway. The circuit is not great and was about the only GP I fell asleep watching.

  • Comment number 41.

    Please also note that if F1 wasn't in this country - would any of you be as aware of Bahrains both positive and negative issues?

    I believe the difference with South Africa was that it was all sanctioned and ratified with UN and all sporting entities and this is not the case in any F1 host nations.

  • Comment number 42.

    @37 AlexCricket.

    Amen to that!

  • Comment number 43.

    Don't worry! I have an ideal solution for this! Just switch the Indian race for the Bahrain one on the calendar! We've got our summer 2012 Olympic Velodrome up and running already, so I am sure the Indians must just be putting the finishing touches to their GP circuit as we write!

  • Comment number 44.

    Of course we want all people not to be opressed and have freedom of choice but it is not up to F1 and sport in general to lead the line on these highly complex issues.

  • Comment number 45.

    Mr Bond, I thought your article was just about right. Concise and lends itself for debate. I know you don't need an ego boost but some of the comments are just plain ridiculous. Too many embitterred "I could do better" armchair journalists out there. If he wrote too much it would be too prescribed and restrictive, why debate anything if the author has said all that needs to be said?

    Interestingly my mothers family lived and worked in Bahrain for a while, so all this has an extra dimension for me, I could easily have been living there if things went differently. The rise of the fight for democracy is fascinating, I'm just glad that Iraq and Afganistan hasn't put the people of the middle east off.

    Here's to greekness!

  • Comment number 46.

    hbean: I wasn't even aware there were serious political issues in Bahrain prior to these revolutionaries coming out of nowhere so I wouldn't take any country in the region for granted.

  • Comment number 47.

    I had the good fortune to spend a few days in Bahrain last year, and you are absolutely correct - it was a relatively affluent and stable country, and very welcoming and tolerant of foreigners (as an aside, wealthy Saudis drive over on a Thursday to have a weekend in a liberal and non-dry state). There was no evidence that it was a country about to undergo any sort of political turmoil or where authoritarian government and human rights violations were an issue.

    As such, your comment re Abu Dhabi and Dubai is entirely correct - if Bahrain can be the site of this type of protest, the Emirates are not immune from the possibility.

    Obviously, under the current circumstances, the GP could not go ahead as scheduled, but I would be optimistic that it can be re-arranged for the later part of the season.

    As for the broader discussion of sport and where it interfaces with politics and human rights issues, it is never a simple question - looking back 25 years, international sport still embraced the Soviet Union despite their suppression of dissidents, but ostracised South Africa, and indeed the sporting boycott of SA played a significant part in the end of Apartheid. Not sure where that leaves the discussion regarding the rights and wrongs of hosting events in China or the Middle East, other than to muddy the waters further.

  • Comment number 48.

    Not a great article. But possibly better to say too little than too much. Some of us watch F1 and other sports as it gets us away from real politics.

    Bernie likes dictators - according to extracts from his book or some such on the Daily Mail website - so am sure he fits in nicely with the Bahraini ruling family amongst others.

    Really gutted have to wait even longer for the 1st GP, but VIVA LA REVOLUTION, VIVA THE PEOPLE OF BAHRAIN, VIVA FREEDOM. (and down with Dictators, got that Bernie?)

  • Comment number 49.

    Oh!!! Like I said, some of us enjoy F1 to get away from politics - but regards to even comment above my first post - not criticising, just agreeing and extending the debate - if we're concerned about hosting events in China and Middle East because of human rights, shouldn't we be concerned about hosting events in nations that support mass murder and war, and are run by war criminals, such as UK and America? See?? Really, lets keep politics out of F1 as much as possible, and even off this site. F1 is a unifying factor across the political and international spectrum, let's not let it become divisive. VIVA F1!

  • Comment number 50.

    I think most people around the world are viewing the current political situation in the Middle East with interest and i'm also sure that there will be many, me included, who would like to see a greater degree of democracy in these countries.

    However, the Bahrain Grand Prix? In terms of fans who actually tune in and watch this sport, the decision to cancel the Grand Prix is of little impact. The race is dull, as is the crowd, as is the circuit. Sure, Bernie has to keep certain parties happy by going to these sorts of venues for financial reasons, but in reality, your average F1 fan is glad to see the back of these sorts of events.

    Its true that it will mean a dull Sunday Afternoon but i reckon i can put up with a repeated epidode of Columbo instead. It'll certainly see more drama and overtaking.

    Roll on Australia, we all know thats where the season really starts anyway. Great Track, Great Crowd and Atmosphere.

  • Comment number 51.

    I hate to state the obvious but this is a sports blog, not a news blog. The purpose of this is to discuss the sport related issues of cancelling the Grand Prix. If you want to read about the unjust regimes and lack of humanitarianism, then read a newspaper... check the news section on here. If you're in the sports section and you expect to read about that, I don't quite know what to tell you.

    Incidentally, I find the "fawning" comment a bit ridiculous. Sport needs money to exist and to survive, yet some people think that money will just fall out of trees. F1 needs to go where the money is, just like they need to take the largest television deal and get the largest numbers of spectators as possible at their events. If they don't, the quality will drop and F1 will lose its status as the top racing competition around the world with most of the best drivers competing. It's the same for football and every other sport around the globe.

  • Comment number 52.

    5. At 9:21pm on 21 Feb 2011, FoxesofNuneaton - Save 606 wrote:
    Bernie has never used morals has he? He can cut a Grand Pirx from a Country and then choose another one to replace it.
    This is the man who threatened to drop the best Overseas Race (Australia) if they didnt have a night race, the man who 'killed' Donnington and also messed Silverstone around.

    1, As the man in charge of F1 he has the right to demand the best fot the TV audiences - so Australia was asked to consider a night race - only the press complained it was an attempt to drop the race.
    Donington - Bernie signed a contract with the guy Gillet - he couldn't front up the money so that is what killed the GP there. Nothing to do with Bernie.
    Silverstone - he rightly complains that apart from dressing up the front entrance not much else was done - the BRDC who own and run Silverstone are not very dynamic and failed to invest heavily enough to ensure the circuit remained world class. Eventually after a lot of political machinations they are investing in the required infrastructure.
    Rest assured if Bernie didn't stir the pot once in a while - the second rate would become the norm.
    You really need to get your prejudices undercontrol and understand the facts before you write bilge!

  • Comment number 53.

    @ 34

    Viva la revolucion !!
    in the new F1 constitution would it be possible to have Coulthard banned from any broadcasts? It's only ever "keep everybody happy" PC drivel that comes out of his mouth anyway, in my humble opinion.
    Oh, and bad playstation electonics, buttons on the steering wheels, traction control, etc, etc

  • Comment number 54.

    Anybody that bought that drivel about giving China the olympics to china to open them up to the world is an idiot. They got it for the same reason we did. Money suddenly appeared in Bank accounts where it hadn't been before.

    Grand Prix's are no different.

  • Comment number 55.

    bahrain gps are so rubbish and boring it just means we have 2 wait a further 2 weeks

  • Comment number 56.

    With regard to Silverstone, I once spent 5 hours waiting to exit a car park, consequently I haven't been back since. Yes, Damon has managed to get the investment going (and good on him) but you can bet that the money will not be spent where it affects the fans, only where Bernie's little feet tread. ( Oh when did I become such a cynic?? ;-)

    As far as Bahrain is concerned I wish the protesters well, it can't be much fun living under such a restrictive regime, but all things are relative. Would we be so active/courageous in a similar situation?? Luckily for us our ancestors fought these battles over the last five centuries, though with the EU we seem to be sleepwalking our way into losing some of our freedoms.

  • Comment number 57.

    Last years season really started at Australia for me. The Bahrain GP was soooo boring.

  • Comment number 58.

    33. At 08:53am on 22 Feb 2011, Fun_Bob_NI wrote:

    Surely sports should turn their back on these countries with human rights issues, rather than go their to promote themselves in the hope it may lead to a fairer society in the future. During the Apartheid years South Africa was expelled from many major sports, not rewarded with a World Cup or Grand Prix.
    Yeah but the difference is SA's ruling class didn't have massive oil revenues and the ability to use their vast wealth to "photoshop" the image of their countries from abroad. Giving us the "Move along now, nothing to see here" treatment. It's dangerous to equate infrastructure development with societal development. Throw in that the Middle East seemingly has the rest of the world by the goolies in regard to oil reserves and it's no wonder the western world, which has seen it's better days, is trying to keep them sweet.

    People are saying the Middle East is the future of the sport, but it's only because of the money, not because of a huge upsweep in interest from Moh public. I can understand going to India, where a reported 35 million watch F1, but when the "home" of F1 is supposedly moving to a place that doesn't have a lot of interest in it, you have to question the motives and the F1 leadership.

    The trouble with Bahrain and UAE is they are using their "estimated" oil reserves to sell their peoples a promise they can't keep. A promise of prosperity. Name one place where the wealth is truly shared. They don't exist, so the social unrest in these places is inevitable at some stage once the people realise they are being conned.

  • Comment number 59.

    Right on, Gus

  • Comment number 60.

    The fourth paragraph says it all, really.

    It was perfectly clear last week that Bahrain should be a no-go for F1, but Bernie's drive is - as ever - money, and he waited for his hosts to say "Don't come!"

    Reminiscent of England's cricketing authorities who were only prepared to boycott Zimbabwe once the government told them to.

    Is breach of contract - and money - more important than doing the right thing?

  • Comment number 61.

    I am gutted that i got to wait two more weeks for a GP. Bahrain is always so boring thou that i fell disapointed watching it! roll on austrailia

  • Comment number 62.

    I feel sorry for all us F1 fans the BBC are not putting anything on to replace Bahrain,


  • Comment number 63.

    From Wikipedia

    "According to the Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department, men and women who are lured into Qatar by promises of high wages are often forced into underpaid labor. The report states that Qatari laws against forced labour are rarely enforced and that labour laws often result in the detention of victims in deportation centres, pending the completion of legal proceedings.

    The report places Qatar at tier 3, as one of the countries that neither satisfies the minimum standards nor demonstrates significant efforts to come into compliance."

  • Comment number 64.

    I don't think the majority of Formula 1 fans are sad to see the Bahrain GP get called off - at last we can have a proper circuit open the season this year!

    And the idea of trying to squeeze the Bahrain circuit in later in the season is a farce, just let it go this year. Bring back Magny Cours I say!!

  • Comment number 65.

    As an F1 fan for over 40 years it is very sad not to have the opening race of the season as scheduled, however Mr E's relentless pursuit of staging races in this part of the world has to be questioned. At the best of times the Middle East is not what could be described as a "peacefull" part of the world.
    I also question the right of any country who cannot provide lesser formula series championships to stage the sports ultimate spectacle!
    There are far to many races being held in countries who have no history or understanding of F1 and this is to the detriment of fans who live in the heartland of the sport.
    The first Grand Prix was held in France yet this country no longer has a race. Belgium,Spa, the best race of the season, is under threat, Imola a classic has also gone yet India and the forever useless US GP are entering the schedule. China hosts a Gp that hardly anyone attends as does Turkey.
    The F1 management has lost the plot. Stop accepting the $ simply to schedule a race where the sport is meaningless.
    Also why is F1 not concerned with holding races in counties wher human rights issues are a real problem. Is the dollar that important, is there no concience within the sport I love?

  • Comment number 66.

    There were plenty of support races in '08, including a Middle East sport/stock car formula(the laugh was having the guy making the autograph announcements practically begging people to get autographs from "our heroes").

  • Comment number 67.

    Drivel. I presume this piece was culled from the BBC news website where nobody knows anything about F1. The sport will always go where the money is, that simple. There are plenty of places in a world that has financially self destructed that are literally begging to host a GP, if the middle east becomes too troublesome Bernie will jump ship to Asia, Russia, Rome .. wherever there is money. So, really, there is no problem at all. F1 isn't out of touch with reality, how can it be with so many people willing to throw money at it, it is simply a microcosm of a brutal capitalistic system and has no alliegences other than the dollar. It would suprise me if this hiccup has barely raised an eyebrow other than to start preparing backup plans slightly more stringently.

  • Comment number 68.

    For anyone who have been or know anything about these countries the only reason for why they invite sports events to their beloved dictatorship is to legitimize their rule.

    Since these countries are bathing in money while half the population lives in poverty it makes sense for F1 to go there so that the rich and famous can have something to do once a year.

    Absolutely disgusting that F1 can sell out so easily. The fans want QUALITY racing and many F1 fans consider the middle east circuits as quite boring. The Grand Prix of Lybia is coming soon...

  • Comment number 69.

    60. At 10:52pm on 22 Feb 2011, No to Charter Renewal wrote:
    The fourth paragraph says it all, really.

    It was perfectly clear last week that Bahrain should be a no-go for F1, but Bernie's drive is - as ever - money, and he waited for his hosts to say "Don't come!"

    Reminiscent of England's cricketing authorities who were only prepared to boycott Zimbabwe once the government told them to.

    Is breach of contract - and money - more important than doing the right thing?

    It's not reminiscent of the Zimbabwe/England cricket situation. That would mean that Zimbabwe didn't want the tour to go ahead.

    I really don't understand what Bernie has done wrong since the situation flared up. He has allowed the Bahraini's to take the lead and admit they are in no position to hold the event. If they had insisted it went ahead maybe then he would need to make a strong decision and pull out.

    The right decision has been made by the little billionaire. Whereas you would have given up 40million on moral principle and inflamed the sport in more controvesy.

  • Comment number 70.

    its obvious to anyone that you cant hold a grand prix whilst people are dying in the streets.Frankly Bahrain is a rubbish track anyway which produces grand prix bore on a grand scale. I say dont bother even trying to squeeze it in somewhere else in the calender.

  • Comment number 71.

    Sorry, but read this a while ago, and it made me laugh so much, had to point it out somewhere: it's taken from the BBC article about: 'Formula 1 better by Design', link on BBC Formula 1 home page: good article, and hope Silverstone is even more exciting than normal this year.

    Talking about overtaking:

    '...But Mr Tilke brushes off such criticism. He says overtaking is a difficult procedure and should remain so.

    "Often the faster race car drives in front of the slower car, which is then the reason for not overtaking and not the design of the circuit," he says....'

    That was the bit that made me laugh. But then he made me laugh louder with this contradicting statement.

    '..."Some circuits allow for good overtaking opportunities. For example, the new Hockenheimring and Spa Francorchamps; these races are often exciting and entertaining for the spectators," he adds...'

  • Comment number 72.


    As usual the illustrious Mr Ecclestone did not have the guts to terminate the Bahrain GP, the decision was left in the hands of the rulers in that country.

    For goodness sake, blood has been shed and yet Ecclestone was prevaricating whether the GP should be run.

    The man has no shame.

  • Comment number 73.

    Come on Folks, yeah the oil rich Arabs might be able to give Bearnie some money but the TRUE fans are here in Europe, mainly the UK, Just look at China, very wealthly but empty grandstands. It's time F1 founds it's roots again, went back to basics and then the show would grow, bring it on.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    The 2022 Football World Cup is HEADING for Qatar, not 'headed'. It has not yet happened so please avoid the erroneous American grammar!

  • Comment number 76.

    But where should sport draw the line? Should it be oblivious to questions of human rights and politics?

    Why draw a line at all? SPORT in general is meant to encourage 'fair play', 'honest behaviour', 'equality for all' etc., Look at the (quite rightly) indignant uproar when Michael Sch' forced Rubens Barrichello into the wall! It can't be a decent SPORT to follow if is DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT A COUNTRIES VIEWS ON HUMAN RIGHTS! Here and now that is the people's voices being heard; sportmen and women everywhere should take these issues up and support them - after all they want the people to come and watch them don't they!

  • Comment number 77.

    Sport and politics eh? It just shows how evocative these subjects are by the fantastic reponses to this blog.
    Not much to say that has not been said above but I must say it's been a long time since F1 or indeed footie has been about 'the sport'. What ever happened to sport making a brave stand to show the way that our politicians should behave towards unjust regimes, remember the boycott of SA in the 70's. It seems now that the mission of large sporting bodies sport is to cash in and 'expand into new markets' as they like to state.
    I have to agree with the brief comments made by Nic Oatridge and Simon H though.
    F1 has to be politically savvy and this creation of larger markets by pandering to very dubious political and social regimes, especially in countries where the money invested (given to Bernie) by the state could obviously be better spent, is ill founded. In fact have the foundations of the brave new F1 just started to subside, possibly.
    And as far as F1 as a spectacle Simon H was spot on, as in bring back proper racing at proper racing circuits. The 'new' circuits are invariably so dull. First lap and last are the only ones of any modicum of interest. It says something when the F1 show is actually far more entertaining than the F1 race, the boys and girls do talk it up well. And lets get rid of all this night racing, I'm no greenie being a petrol head but come on, night racing just flys in the face of any moral sense of green integrity and what a waste of fuel all those generators are .... unless we can find a way of racing the damn things.

  • Comment number 78.

    The last time I read one this guys blogs, he was in the process of offending a lot of people during the world cup. The blog was supposed to be about how the world cup was benefitting the "ordinary" south african ny bringing commerce and keeping ticket prices low. Mr Bond not only created a sweeping generalisation by using the term "ordinary south african". It left me wondering exactly which "ordinary" south africans he was speaking about, and seeing as though he skirted all the major poverty issues and painted the world cup as Africa's saviour, whilst ignoring the fact that a lot of people who wanted a ticket couldnt afford it, I can only summise that the "ordinary" south africans he was referring to were rich white ones.

    I havent read one his blogs since then until now.

    There is one thing that Bond seems to be good at however - he seems to have the ability to see poverty or unjustice - and ignores it. Some might say that this is not necesarrily a good thing. But hey, I'll bet his life's alright, Jack. There cant be any injustice in the world if you choose to ignore it.


  • Comment number 79.

    "its obvious to anyone that you cant hold a grand prix whilst people are dying in the streets."

    Why not? F1 has never stopped, even when drivers are dying on the track.

  • Comment number 80.

    So...Bernie wants to reschedule the race for the back end of the season. I can't really see what the point is of trying to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix at this point.

    The fact is that the very fact that a Grand Prix has been postponed due to local politics for the first time in F1 history means that the sport has already lost. Holding it later in the season isn't going to make up for that.

    Then there's the fact that the revolutionaries aren't going away any time soon and neither are the royals. Just because the headlines are now on Libya doesn't mean that Bahrain has sorted itself out. I wouldn't put it past the revolutionaries to still be occupying the Pearl roundabout in eight months time and then F1 comes to town...and the revolutionaries seize their chance to cause chaos.

    Bernie is looking like a fish out of water here.

  • Comment number 81.

    Of course people should question the Middle East being a suitable host area for major sporting-and non sporting-events. Many countries in this region are governed by dictators, or authoritarian style figures, or are under army control. Also they have very backwards views on homosexuality and women's rights(I for one would not wish to cover up in a burqa in order to watch a live event, as it degrades women). Why should these flaws be ignored for money? Surely we should stick by our beliefs not pander to others views. Isn't sport meant to promote equality and establish relationships,not provide more revenue for sponsors? All in all, Bernie should seriously consider F1's integrity as he moves the cherised sport 'into the 21st century'.

  • Comment number 82.

    A lot of the comments here, both pro and con canceling an F1 race due to political reasons, are very interesting. Some of the comments are extremely pompous and others pretty one sided, but they still shows me that there are a lot of people who love this "sport", and would like to see it survive these rather perilous times.

    Putting sports above politics is a very old concept, that has rapidly lost meaning since the days that athletes competed for their home towns, in loin cloths or less. These days when an individual F1 car and driver is worth in excess of 100 million dollars, the concept of competing for the love of the sport, god and country, becomes a little blurred.

    I am not going to pretend that I have any answers for the future of F1, but I would love to see it return to a somewhat humbler and more pure form (at least in spirit), where manufacturers and privateers are competing for the honor of producing the best cars and drivers for that particular year.

    I would also like to see more street circuits and use of existing famous race tracks around the world (not purpose built F1 tracks). Yes, the cars would have to be redesigned to run higher off the ground.

    How this will happen I am not sure, but if the sport of F1 continues on the same path, that it is on at this moment, it will soon find that we (the fans) are no longer interested. And Mr. Eccleston, you can't take that to the bank.

  • Comment number 83.

    two races in the western hemisphere. is it any wonder why f1 is`t relevant on this side of the globe.

  • Comment number 84.

    The only serious Bond to evaluate the situation I would think should be James. Stirred of course not shaken, and maybe while he's there he could do a few hot laps in his Aston.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    I feel sorry for the F1 teams in this case. I reckon the guys were looking forward to going out there and getting the show on the road... More time for testing I guess but its a hassle for the fans that are in Bahrain who will now have to wait... Not taking anything away from the peoples right to protest but I would have thought that the people there would have behaved themselves when company arrived, like that of the F1. Now we wont know? Should we have risked it??? I reckon we should have... But I'm not Burnie or the Prince - Thank the Lord for that! I hope its all good there for later in the season... I really do...

    For now though... GO YOU GOOD THING... COMMON AUSSIE COMMON! Look out Melbourne... The F1 Road Show is coming to town... Get ready for the fire of the best week you'll have this year... Here comes the First race of season 2011..... Whoo...

    Go Mark Webber... Hero Status Awaits!


  • Comment number 87.

    If I mention Brundle, Bahrain, Crown Prince, Chum, Saudi Troops... does this get blocked as well?

  • Comment number 88.

    I am finding it very hard to understand how F1 can continue contemplating holding races along with all the partying and celebration that goes on at these events in countries that have governments that seem to think it is fine to shoot or imprison there peoples for expressing their views on the way their counties and their lives are being run.

    I feel that the whole F1 road show including the teams and the divers should re-check their moral compass and decide if it is morally correct for them to take profit from these events and assist in the promotion of these counties. I feel this is so disrespectful to the memories of those who have either perished or are suffering at the hands of these governments.

    SHAME ON YOU ALL !!!!!!

  • Comment number 89.

    @ liverred1985

    And you know old Bernie always gets paid upfront!

  • Comment number 90.

    I am not at all surprised that the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix has been called off completely - it was sheer ignorance on Bernie's part to think that it could be merely postponed. As much as the self-destruction hurts anyone that's been to the little rock, the fact is that F1 has to stay well clear of the place.

    I could make further comments on the situation but they would not be appropriate for an F1 blog!

  • Comment number 91.

    "- Bernie Ecclestone risked costing the sport almost £40m in lost staging fees if he had pulled the plug -"

    I would have thought that this was reasonably affordable in the context of F1 finances. Also, what happened to the £50m windfall that "the sport" got from fining Mclaren-Mercedes?


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