So here’s the thing with the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix: it’s not that the Bahraini people are particularly known as car racing fans. They weren’t clamoring to host, every year, a bunch of fancy Europeans who go vroom.
However, hosting a Formula One event is a huge feather in a small country’s cap, as the licensing fees are quite expensive. The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, can show off his enormous bags of money simply by hosting this sporting event in his country. Plus, people like Eric Clapton and Gordon Ramsay show up and get pictures taken with him.
Formula One in Bahrain is demonstrably not about, or for, the people. But what is these days, right? Just this week, 47 doctors and nurses were arrested for “trying to topple the government,” because they treated injured protestors.
Earlier this year, when protests in Bahrain and across the Middle East started, Formula One announced it was postponing their spring event. Last week, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone announced it was set for October.
Perhaps they the governing body was surprised at how politically aware their drivers are. They were probably also surprised that Bahrainis promised to officially freak out on the day of the race if it indeed occurred.
Mark Webber, the Australian driver who is the fire of most fans’ loins, even said Formula One was sending the wrong message about its “position on something as fundamental as human rights and how it deals with moral issues.” (Yes….tall, dark, handsome, and he talks like that.)
And as it turns out, Ecclestone was violating his own rules when he announced the new date: unexpected events cannot be scheduled without the agreement of all racers. So now he looks rather dim, and the King of Bahrain can add “bad at public relations” to “potentially evil.”
No one was going to tour Bahrain this year, anyway. There’s a time and a place for tourism, and Bahrain 2011 just isn’t it.