Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"The only message I got was that there were some kids in trouble with the police" - Bernie remains defiant of Bahrain unrest

Mr Bernie Ecclestone has defied mounting political pressure and given the green light to race in troubled Bahrain. After last years cancellation due to safety fears, this year we will race on. Is it right? Put simply... NO!

Bahrain is riding the crest of the wonderful wave of uprisings against oppressive regimes in the middle east, the so called 'Arab Spring'. Although often complicated with sectarian divisions, heroically the people of the middle east are finally taking a stand against being trampled on by crackpot dictators and totalitarian regimes. In Bahrain, the Sunni minority are desperately clinging to power as the Shia majority population are rising up. The growing conflict has got even more violent in the recent month, leading to the government aggressively lashing out with bullets and Saudi military help. Even Shia employees at the Grand Prix circuit have been imprisoned.

Yet Bernie Ecclestone, completely out of touch with reality is behaving like a immoral business man by claiming that F1 is simply 'non political'. His comments of recent are laughable:

"The only message I got was that there were some kids in trouble with the police"

You honestly think what is bordering on potential civil war and making headline news around the world is simply a few pesky kids letting off some steam? Senile dementia is common in those above the age of 80.

"We've always been non-political....any decision will be made on grounds of safety." 

Say we were in pre war Nazi Germany with today's standard of moral consciousness. The German Grand Prix will go ahead, most likely to be won by a superior German car with a few million donated to the FIA by the Fuhrer himself. Bernie is used to the concept of bribes, he once donated £1 million to Tony Blair's Labour party and suddenly F1 was immune to UK tobacco advertising laws. Security at the race is tight, there is no chance of any trouble. Is F1 still non political? (if your interested, the 1938 German Grand Prix was won by British driver Richard Seaman in a Mercedes who gave Hitler the Nazi salute on the podium) .

Bernie's comments come in reaction to a recent letter from British government peers advising the race not go ahead. Then yesterday  Conservative MP Conor Burns and Labour MP Thomas Doherty of the suspiciously titled 'UK-Bahrain All-Party Parliamentary Group' stated the race should go ahead as “an incentive to the authorities in Bahrain [to show that it is serious about reform].  

So is this the truth or is there some other driving force behind Bernie's decision? Unsurprisingly, the answer is money. Big money.

On the run up to the then cancelled 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix, Mark Webber was the only driver with the balls to speak out, stating:

"When you hear of people losing their lives, this is a tragedy. It's probably not the best time to go there for a sporting event. They have bigger things, bigger priorities."

Then the ugly truth caught up with on Mark in the shape of the Redbull's Bahraini investers BMMI. At the next Grand Prix he uncomfortably refused to make any further comments on the situation or even back what he said previous. This sickens me to my stomach, and to make matters worse Redbull are not the only team with Bahraini sponsors, McLaren are another top team who's moral compass is swayed by the flow of cash. The government owned Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding company owns 30% of the team.
Have we been here before? In 1985 the F1 circus raced on in South Africa at the great Kylami race circuit. But this was under the disgraceful apartheid regime where blacks were segregated from whites. Many teams boycotted but often under pressure from their own national governments, like the French Ligier team. And many of the drivers were vocal of there distaste for apartheid. However they also explained that they were under contract to race at every event their team took them. One of those who stood out was Ayrton Senna, and in only his second year of F1 he decided to boycott the event. Unfortunately it dawned on him that a young up and coming driver racing for the renowned Lotus name would potentially damage his career prospects from being in breach of contract. The young Ayrton gave into the pressure, eventually retiring from the race with engine problems.

Of course apartheid South Africa is very different from the situation in Bahrain. While the Bahraini government is not afraid to use violence and torture, the country is regarding as one of the most democratic Arab nations. In fact last year's trouble bought about a government investigation into whether the security forces acted unlawfully, and surprising to many they judged themselves guilty of human rights abuses. But was this simply smoke and mirrors, an empty concession to the alter of the Western world to give the illusion of a democratic process?

The situation is also not as simple as the masses uprising against an evil few. It is a sectarian affair between different denominations of Islam, the Shia's and the Sunnis. However the Sunnis who rule the country are the minority population. The Bahraini security forces struggled with the unrest last year leading them to bring in the cavalry in the form of the Saudi army. Yes, Saudi Arabia, a government which amputate hands and limbs for petty theft and military are welcome customers of British Aerospace.

To me it seems an ubsurd situation and as a lifelong militant F1 fan who watches all racing live I am seriously considering not watching the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix. For Bernie to simply plead his show is non political and burry his head under the sand is a stain on F1's reputation. Shame on you...

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