Bernie Ecclestone is getting it wrong on Bahrain race

Posted on February 20, 2011


Bernie Ecclestone has told BBC Sport the decision on whether the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead will be left to the Crown Prince.

Bernie Ecclestone is walking into trouble on the Bahrain question.

Ecclestone reportedly said: “[Crown Prince Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa] will know whether it’s safe for us to be there. I’ve no idea. I’m not there, so I don’t know.

“We won’t advise people to go unless it’s safe.”

There is already criticism breaking over the comments, with BBC presenter Jake Humphrey Tweeting that Ecclestone is “missing the point” – and implying he personally will not be going, regardless of whether the race goes ahead.

Much as I did three days ago, I still think Ecclestone will get the event on and I think it is highly unlikely the teams will boycott unilaterally. If the race is on, FOTA will be there – Christian Horner said as much after the meeting in Barcelona.

Ecclestone is, indeed, missing the point. He’s taken Formula One into difficult political situations before, such as the 1985 South African Grand Prix which some teams boycotted because of apartheid. He clearly believes this is a similar moment – that Formula One should go about its business as planned because to do anything else would mean making a comment on the Bahrain regime and making such a comment is not the preserve of sport.

But the situation is different. Many will still think the 1985 decision was wrong but for the most part, it is forgotten.

The difference now is an event in Bahrain will be on TV everywhere, all the time. If the Grand Prix goes ahead it will lead bulletins across the world for the whole weekend – right next to pictures of a violent crackdown. It would be a devastating image for the sport and it would be a completely inappropriate thing to do.

Safety isn’t the point because that, probably, can be ensured given the right security measures.

Nobody can know how the political situation in Bahrain will play out. Right now, the protestors are back in Pearl Square and the military and police have backed off. Tomorrow? Who knows. March 13? Impossible to say but there shouldn’t be an international sporting event happening in the middle of it.

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