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Mosley: F1 will pay a heavy price for Bahrain decision

NEWS STORY
05/06/2011

Former FIA president Max Mosley has warned that F1 must reverse its decision to return to Bahrain or face the consequences.

"International sporting federations have to ignore politics," he writes in the Daily Telegraph. "And not just the day-to-day politics of regimes of which most Western democracies would disapprove.

"Sporting bodies also have to overlook human rights violations in places where events are held and even in some member countries of the federations themselves.

"There are several reasons for this," he continues. "First, to apply the highest standards of human rights you would have to exclude a very large number of countries from international sport, including at least one close ally of the United Kingdom.

"Secondly, if you were to apply anything less than the highest standards, you would be faced with endless debate about where to draw the line.

"Third, it is not the function of a sporting body to seek to dictate to governments what they can and cannot do. Politics should be left to the politicians.
A sports administrator is elected to run a sport. Anyone who wants to be a politician should stand for election in politics, not sport.

"If sport has a political function, it is in drawing together groups and factions, even countries, which are otherwise at loggerheads. Motor sport has many examples of this: a World Championship rally criss-crossing the border in Ireland with the support of both communities; rallies in the Lebanon producing a temporary truce during the civil war; a similar story a few years ago in the Balkans; there is even an Israeli presence in the Middle-East Rally Championship although, for understandable reasons, it is not obvious.

"With this background, it will be claimed that reinstating the Formula One race in Bahrain is beneficial. It will bring the Shia and Sunni communities together, uniting the warring factions as part of a process of reconciliation. We will be told that holding the Grand Prix in October will show that, once again, Bahrain is a happy, peaceful country. So why is it wrong for Formula One to go along with this?

"Why is this different to running an event in any number of countries where people are oppressed, kept in poverty, held without trial and mistreated (or worse) in prison? Surely the line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions.

"If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula One allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime's guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters.

"It is worth remembering that the trouble in Bahrain began with peaceful protest. The crowds were not seeking the removal of the ruling family, merely a move towards democracy and rights for the Shia majority comparable to those enjoyed by the Sunni elite.

"These modest demands were soon met with brutal repression. Demonstrators were shot dead. Protesters were imprisoned and, according to credible reports, hideously mistreated, even tortured and killed. Doctors and nurses who treated the injured were themselves arrested and imprisoned. When these measures failed to crush the protests, the Bahrain government called in troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia to crush all opposition with naked force.

"Having carried out these horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That's where the Grand Prix comes in. By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.

"By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government's instruments of repression. The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear."

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