Friday, June 3, 2011

How Much Does "Business As Usual" Cost?: About $40 Million

$40 million. That's the amount the London-based owners of Formula One, CVC Capital Partners Ltd., would have been out had they decided to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix. Bloomberg, citing a Telegraph report, quotes this figure as the fee Formula One charges the Al Khalifa for holding the race. So, then: any guess as to their decision?

The NYT quotes a statement by the International Automobile Federation:
"After considering all the factors and taking into consideration all stakeholders' concerns, the WMSC (world motor sport council) unanimously agreed to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix in the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship. ... The WMSC feels that reinstating the Grand Prix is a means of helping to unite people as the country looks to move forward."
Wow, who woulda thunk it? Money and politics trumps humanitarian concerns. News at 11. (See this longer Times piece for a lengthier analysis.)

Human rights watchers are busy criticizing the decision. Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic, for example, "Green Light for Bahrain's Formula One Is Setback for Democracy Activists." Former FIA president Max Mosley offers an even stronger opinion:
“If I was president today, F1 would go to Bahrain over my dead body. ...

The grand prix will be used to paint a picture of Bahrain that will be false. They will be attempting to use the grand prix to support what they are doing, almost using F1 as an instrument of repression. ...

There is only one reason Formula One is in Bahrain and that is a political reason. To go will be a public relations disaster, and sponsors will want their liveries removed.”
Yet Bahrain's opposition is more forward-looking. As put by Muhammad al-Maskati,
"On the one hand, Formula One isn’t respecting human rights, but on the other, it’s a good chance for the people to express how they feel on television worldwide."
Which is to say, "Go ahead and hold the Formula One, because we're going to be protesting the hell out of it--from the airport, down the highway, all the way to the track."

Al-Wifaq leaders have also officially supported the rescheduling of the race, presumably for the same reason.

Paradoxically, then, the rescheduling of the event may prove to be a boon to the anti-government camp, particularly in the wake of the failed attempt to restart mass protests this week following the lifting of martial law on June 1. Though small groups of demonstrators did make it past the labyrinth of checkpoints to the streets both on Wednesday and Friday (braving rubber bullets and teargas), they failed to reach their target of the now-sacred ground about the erstwhile Pearl Roundabout and, more generally, failed to garner the sort of numbers they had aimed for.

Certainly, the rescheduled Grand Prix will be marked prominently on the calendars of Bahrain's opposition, and look for the King to expedite his just-announced "National Dialogue, Take 2" initiative in order to help ensure some progress toward a political resolution in time for the race.

Speaking of which, the Bahraini government might want to get started with that. It seems the only people invited to talks so far have been the pro-government folks. Al-Wasat reports the first meeting of the National Dialogue 2 was held on June 1. Who did it involve, do you ask? The crown prince and Sh. 'Ali Salman? The king and the heads of all the main political societies? Not exactly. Actually, the initial phase of the national dialogue consultation involved... the prime minister and pro-government independents in parliament, namely the speaker of the lower house, Khalifah al-Dhaharani, and president of the Shura Council, 'Ali Salih al-Salih. I'm sure they had some really deep disagreements to sort out.

Update: the Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the White House will host Crown Prince Salman next week in an effort to jump start the new national dialogue initiative. Evidently they've failed to notice that he is no longer in a political position to make that happen.

Update 2: Al-Jazeera English has a 30-minute video segment up on its website about the reinstatement of the Formula 1 in Bahrain. It's called "Putting Money Before Morality?"


  1. Seems no dice:

  2. So little faith.. already on it.