Posted by Mark J. Miller on April 24, 2012 04:06 PM
As the globe tuned in to watch the Formula One race last Sunday in Bahrain — which went ahead despite the slew of politicians, human rights groups, and even F1 fans who argued against it — fans of the sport are questioning what kind of hit the F1 brand has taken as a result of the controversy, particularly as F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone is rumored to be planning a return in 2013.
The controversy stems from the months of violence and political unrest that have snarled the country. Protesters called the race “a publicity stunt by the country's rulers to make the nation seem more unified than it actually is,” according to CNN.
Even though last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled due to a spate of violence, F1 officials went ahead with the 2012 race, which saw the ouster of a team of a British journalists (a TV crew for Channel 4) who were covering the anti-government protests hours before Sunday's race. Reporters for CNN, Reuters and the Financial Times were denied entry altogether.
"Sport and politics generally shouldn't mix, but ... what kind of signal does it send to the world when this grand prix is going ahead, given the concerns there are, given the violence we have seen in Bahrain, given the continuing issues around human rights?” said British opposition leader Ed Miliband to CNN on the eve of the race. "I don't think it's the right decision to let this grand prix go ahead, and I think the government needs to weigh in and express its view."
Brands also questioned the judgment of proceeding with the race, with Mercedes reportedly challenging the selection process that led back to Bahrain. Not complaining: the Maclaren Group, half-owned by Bahrain, which is the parent of the British-based Formula One team.
Ecclestone, who owns the commercial rights to Formula One, balked at one occurrence at Sunday's race: the Unif1ed "banners with F1’s well recognised symbol planted in the middle of word 'Unified.'"