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?

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering