This seasons Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain was postponed earlier this year due to the uprisings against King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Bahrain’s uprising was particularly violent with troops firing quite relentlessly on the demonstrators, who are rising up against the autocratic and monarchical system within the country. With a wave of rebellion spreading across the Middle East, Bahrain too sought out some form of democratization through political and constitutional concession. In February, demonstrators gathered at the Pearl Roundabout, calling for the end of the monarchy. The response from King Hamad however, was to use the royal army to massacre the protesters.
King Hamad has yet to concede power and the issues are unresolved. Problems are still quite apparent in Bahrain and rioting still prevalent, yet Bernie Ecclestone, President of Formula One Management, has today declared that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead in October. Bernie must be hoping his crystal ball is on top form as belligerence between the army and the demonstrators shows little sign of relenting. With the Middle East and parts of North Africa seeming rather volatile at present, it seems a strange decision to take the risk in holding a Grand Prix in a state that has openly slaughtered innocents. However the FIA and the Formula One teams, especially Ferrari, face losing revenue to the sum of millions if they were to cancel. Ecclestone has strongly rejected claims that this rescheduling is about money.
With the riotous situation in Bahrain it seems rather a risky venture for Formula One. Touring sport has faced problems before within troubled nations. Most notably, England’s cricket team have refused to play in Zimbabwe due to a fear for the teams safety in the failed state under the Mugabe regime. Unless the trouble in Bahrain is resolved before October, then the Grand Prix could potentially put the drivers, mechanics, journalists, and fans at risk. It will be interesting to see how the teams respond to this news and whether they go ahead with the race.
Potentially, the Grand Prix could create a unifying event to soothe tensions in the nation. But the merciless approach of King Hamad provide ample enough reason to not go ahead with the race. However, this move by the FIA could also potentially be viewed as one that endorses the actions of Bahrain’s monarchy. Bahrain in it’s current state, is not suitable to host a Grand Prix. It must be hoped that the FIA consider the severity of the situation, re-assess closer to October and are not just pressured into the decision to reschedule out of a fear of losing money.
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