Sunday, April 22, 2012

"No To F1"

A riot police officer walks past an advertising board promoting Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix in Manama, Bahrain, Thursday, April 19, 2012. Nervous shop owners closed their doors and security forcesSebastian Vettel, the defending World Champion, won the Bahrain Grand Prix Sunday on the tiny Gulf Island Kingdom. It was his first win of the year.  He was the fourth different winner, in four races, from four different teams. The first time that has happened since 1983.

Normally that would have been big news. 

But the big news in Bahrain was the fact the race was held at all.  It was cancelled in 2011 when unrest surrounding the Arab Spring was spreading through the Mid East.  Many, led by Amnesty International, asked F1 to cancel the race again this year.  So why, just two weeks before the race, did the FIA announce plans to go ahead with the event.  

Had calm and tranquility returned to the country?  Hardly.  There continues to be rioting in the streets and another protester was killed just days before the race.

The answer is easy.  $$$$$$$$.

The government of Bahrain is said to have spent $40 million to bring the Formula One circus into the country.  It was a way to show the country had returned to stability.  They even had a theme for it, "UNIF1ED."  The government also owns the track and rights to the race.  It even owns half of the McLaren team and other members of the royal family own potions of other teams.  The race brings an estimated $500 million to the kingdom.

Give Speed credit for its coverage of the race.  It would have been easy to ignore the issue.  But they addressed the issue right up front, Bob Varsha calling it one of the most difficult weeks for Grand Prix racing in recent memory.  He compared the Bahrain to South African, where a Grand Prix was held for many years under the shadow of Apartheid, not exactly F1's finest hour.   But then Varsha rather naively wondered if the race could bring the country together.

Race day was relatively calm. Organizers said all 100,000 seats were sold and maybe so. The rest of the country was locked down tight. By nightfall, however, the marchers were back.  Thick clouds of black smoke were billowing from neighborhoods within sight of the track.  The statement was clear, F1 may have moved on, but the problems remain.

The marchers even had a new chant.  "No to F1."

No comments:

Post a Comment