So a bunch of Formula 1 people have got together at a function in London and have said that Bahrain is a fine place to go; that there are no real problems there and that the media is to blame for the current situation. They say that protests are just being caused by a few dozen disgruntled individuals and that one can be mugged or knifed in cities all over the world and that Bahrain is no different to many other places.
Wonderful. It is just a shame that the final doubts about the place were not swept away with invitations to the event for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the two major human rights organisations in the world. If they had come to the party and said that all was well, then no-one would have any worries.
But since when was Bernie Ecclestone an expert in human rights? He knows how to make billions, and good for him, but I am not sure he is the right person to pass judgement on the political unrest inside Bahrain. Are we to believe that the tens of thousands who turned out on the streets a year ago complaining about the regime are now satisfied with the government of the country, particularly when they know from an independent report the things that the authorities did to people who opposed them?
I should add that I have no doubt that the race IS designed to bring hope to the country and that there ARE moves being made to make progress towards getting Bahrain back on the right track, but this does not mean that the opposition will just sit there and do nothing; nor that the authorities will not use excessive force to deal with anyone daring to disrupt the event. I stand by my belief that by going to Bahrain at this time F1 is putting its head into a noose and hoping for the best. It is also politicising the sport when it does not need to do so. And it is a huge risk because protest can come in many different forms. It does not have to be pitched battles on the streets. Protest can be blocking access roads to the venue, having a sit-down protest on the grid, or following the example of Fidel Castro back in the 1950s when his men kidnapped the World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio and held him prisoner until the race weekend was over.
I fervently hope that there will be no trouble because the sport does not need such bad publicity, but at the same time I do not think it is right for F1 to swan around giving the impression that all is well, if just up the road there are people trading tear gas, Molotov cocktails and bullets on account of the F1 circus being there.
Those who have the power (and the responsibility) to take decisions about the sport, have made their choices. They must now accept the consequences of those choices. The Formula One group decides on the calendar, and the FIA decides on what is good for the sport. If they get it wrong then the people responsible for those decisions must be held accountable.