Editorial: Repression is a shameful background to Bahrain’s Grand Prix

It is difficult to concentrate on the sport of motor racing against a background of human rights abuses

If Charles Dickens showed us the best of times and the worst of times in A Tale of Two Cities, this weekend’s tale of two sporting events has something to say – albeit on a smaller canvas – about the best and worst of human society.

At home, we have the uplifting spectacle of the 33rd London Marathon. Undaunted by the horrific attack at its Bostonian counterpart, some 36,000 runners and more than a million spectators will descend on the capital tomorrow. Something north of £500m will be raised for charity as participants from all over the world and of every athletic ability – or lack of it – come together for a glorious celebration of shared effort and shared humanity.

If only the same could be said of the Grand Prix taking place in Bahrain on the same day. It is not the motor racing that cannot stand the comparison. But it is difficult to concentrate on the sport against a background of human rights abuses. Less than three years ago, pro-democracy protests were crushed, leaving more than 50 dead and hundreds arrested. Discontent and repression have continued ever since. And, despite tear gas and stun grenades from the police, tens of thousands of Bahrainis have called for the race to be cancelled. It should have been. There might not be tumbrils in the streets, but Bahrain is still no place for sport.

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