Green light for Bahrain proves money trumps ideals


Bernie Ecclestone might have been prepared to stand a $40m [£25.5m] loss if the Bahrain Grand Prix did not go ahead this year, having insisted that any decision would not be based on financial implications.

But it was very definitely about money for the Bahrainis, who pioneered Formula One in the Middle East as a crucial marketing initiative based around highlighting the country's attractions as a "friendly" place to do business.

That image has taken a beating as severe as any dished out to political dissenters since the much-publicised unrest gathered pace there from February onwards, and the tourism industry there is stone dead. Small wonder that a deputation of Bahrainis has been so assiduously courting F1 teams and other interested parties at the past three grands prix in Turkey, Spain and Monaco.

Zayed R Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), claimed in a statement yesterday that the State of National Safety has been lifted and that other countries have withdrawn travel restrictions. He spoke of the event being a source of national pride, but his most telling comments were about the boost it will give a damaged economy. The Bahrain Grand Prix attracts 100,000 visitors, supports 3,000 jobs and generates around $500m of economic benefit. End of story.

If you believed the Bahraini delegation, things have not just returned to a calm state in Manama, but were grossly over-exaggerated by the media in the first place. But video film of atrocities, and reports of medical workers being imprisoned, give the lie to such claims.

At least half of the F1 teams have been wary of a return this year, but after FIA vice-president Carlos Gracia visited Bahrain on 31 May to assess the situation, holding meetings with the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Bahrain Motor Federation and Bahrain International Circuit, as well as Tariq Al Saffar at the National Institute of Human Rights, they were persuaded to revise their views.

Taking advice that the King of Bahrain has established a "political dialogue and reconciliation process", the World Motor Sport Council met in Barcelona yesterday and decided to reinstate the race on the 2011 calendar. It will be held on 30 October, the date originally reserved for India.

Perhaps we should not be surprised; some teams have connections with the Bahrainis, for whom a swift return is crucial to rebuilding their shattered business and tourism industries using F1 as a tool by which to convince a sceptical world all is well.

But should F1 really be going back to a region in which, if news reports are to be believed, a government's agents have been killing its own people? Is endorsement of the ruling regime really the image that F1 should be presenting? It is not long since the sport banned tobacco sponsorship, opening the way for banks, mobile phone, computer and drinks companies to enter a more socially acceptable sponsorship arena.

Call me cynical, but where such big business is concerned I would not have expected any other outcome. Under its current structure F1 will always be the most pragmatic of sports. Money will trump politics – and human rights issues – any time.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album