James Lawton: Dear Mr Ecclestone, the show really shouldn't go on

By going to Bahrain, F1 is providing aid to a regime that treats its people like wild dogs

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is not exactly alone in his apparent touting for business wherever he can find it.

Think of the Olympics turning a blind eye to the streets of Mexico City smeared with the blood of student protesters in 1968, if you don't want to go all the way back to Berlin in 1936.

This isn't to mention the elbowing of concern over Tibet and countless other invasions of freedom in the build-up to Beijing four years ago. Think also of Fifa hawking the World Cup to the Argentina of the generals in 1978 and the money-stench of their decision to go to Qatar in 2022. But this Bahrain business does have a reek all of its own.

It's bad enough that part of the shilling of the event has been provided by John Yates, the man from the Met who resigned over the phone-hacking scandal and only last week assured Jean Todt, head of the motor racing authority, that the streets of his adopted dictatorship were safer than those of London.

He also wanted to assure visitors that all those locals who don't go out on to the streets agitating for some basic human rights are quite the most delightful people.

The first thing to remember about F1 is that it operates in an extraordinary bubble of huge budgets and unbridled ambition.

Paul Di Resta, the hugely committed young driver of Force India, several of whose team members were reviewing the quality of Yates's security advice while booking flights home after colleagues were caught in a petrol bomb blast caused by one of the local royal family's less delightful subjects, was honest enough about his instincts.

He was a professional driver who was simply waiting for instructions from the people who pay his wages. Indirectly, these of course currently include the rulers of a nation extremely reluctant to acknowledge not just the Arab Spring but the arrival of the 21st century.

Di Resta declares, with a commendable absence of platitudes, "I'm pretty neutral. It's how I've felt for the last couple of weeks, although there is an edge on things at the moment. At the end of the day if there is a race on I want to be racing."

The majority of competitors said pretty much the same thing at Munich 40 years ago after the massacre of Israeli athletes and coaches. The then IOC president Avery Brundage, an American plutocrat, said that nothing could stop the Games. At the end of it they sent a host of pretty balloons into the sky.

It is not so hard to try to understand how it is when you are an athlete utterly preoccupied with the challenge you have set yourself – or someone like Di Resta, driving out on the limits of his ambition and knowing how fine the margin is between success and failure.

But maybe it is reasonable to expect more from those who can afford to step back from the race, who can say that sometimes new imperatives are placed upon the playpen of sport. In this case, one of them should be recognition by the rulers of Formula One that by going to Bahrain they are providing much aid and comfort to a regime that treats so many of its people no better than the wild dogs.

If this doesn't demand a red light, you have to wonder what does?

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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones