There was extensive coverage in the media of the recent Bahrain Grand Prix, and in particular the off-track events that surrounded it. The majority of this coverage suggested Formula One was there for financial reasons, despite the risk to team members’ lives and the overall political situation in the host country.
In response to this, many Formula One journalists stated there wasn’t actually any trouble in Bahrain at all; that even if you looked for it, you struggled to find the apparent riots and shootings.
But all this misses the point. Amnesty International recently released a reportwhich stated that 35 deaths were reported in Bahrain over a two-month period last year. Five of these were due to torture.
Why were the F1 press looking for riots when the true crimes of the rulers of Bahrain were hidden away, well out of the view of the public and the foreign press? The journalists in Bahrain should have illustrated their unease with the situation by discussing the Bahrainis who have been killed in the fight for their cause.
And the media should have looked at the bigger picture. As journalists, that’s their role. Formula One goes to many countries which have blemished human rights records. Many sports visit countries that murder, suppress and kill their citizens. The debate should be about whether it is right for these countries to be represented in international sport and whether these countries should be allowed to host international sport.
By answering these questions, I think we can begin to answer the great sport and politics divide. It should be right for Bahrainis to come to London to represent their country and fight for Olympic medals this summer. It’s right because it’s such a personal thing. Athletes dedicate their lives to doing the best they can in their chosen discipline. Most of the time they have nothing to do with politics.
So should it be right for Bahrain to host a grand prix? This is where the debate gets complicated.
Formula One ignored the rest of the world and went to South Africa in the 1980s during the apartheid. Was that right? Were other sports right to ignore the country? And does ignoring the country mean you’re ignoring its citizens and their plight?
Ultimately, by being in South Africa, Formula One put the spotlight on the country in a massive way. Rugby then went and finished the job by uniting the country with the 1995 World Cup.
That’s why Formula One was probably right to have gone to Bahrain. But, these are murky waters.
There are so many questions that surround the theatres of sport and politics, and they have been missed by the press in recent weeks. Great questions have been left unanswered when the recent Bahrain Grand Prix offered an opportunity for sensible answers to be found.
That’s the real shame from last weekend’s grand prix.
Source: Bleacher Report.