Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

021 - Should sport have morals? Why cancelling the Bahrain GP must happen.

The reinstatement this week of the Formula 1 Bahrain GP later this year has raised an important question about whether or not sport as a whole should have a moral compass when it comes to hosting events on the international stage.

Regarding Bahrain and the event itself, the monarchy and monarchy-elected government which the protests surround have come under scrutiny of late for the arbitrary removal of several track workers without reason. Furthermore seven prominent protest leaders were recently detained for their parts in the demonstrations, and for calling for an end to the current regime.

Formula 1 is no stranger to scandal. I have been an avid follower myself for just a little over 14 years now, and have seen through the various issues that it has had to come through including sex-life revelations of then FIA president Max Mosley, breakaway championship threats and allegations of corruption and race-fixing amongst others. While the cancellation of this event may have future repercussions on holding events in other countries with questionable regimes, to continue with this event would potentially associate the sport with an image it may later come to regret. One that this time it may find difficult to shake off.

Whilst reports on the scale of the Bahrain protests and civil unrest are somewhat inevitably skewed by varying media agendas around the world, the question over whether sport as an entity should demonstrate some form of morality will persist long after such demonstrations are resolved.

One issue with Bahrain lies within the laws applicable to those engaging in anti-goverment protest:

Bahraini Penal Code:
Article - 174 -

Punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding two hundred dinars, or either of manufacture or possesses with the intent of trafficking or distribution, or adhesive or display images that would offend the country's reputation, whether it was violating the truth or giving an incorrect description or highlighting aspects of non- Inappropriate or any other way.

The issue here derives from the interpretation of the latter part of the legislation regarding 'non-appropriate' behaviour and the definition of how this is used by the Bahraini courts to pass judgment on protesters. Media reports suggest Saudi-backed officials arresting Linkprotesters and the destruction of protest camps under the imposition of martial law. The Economist also reports industries such as the banking sector being asked to dismiss employees absent during strikes.

To continue with the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2011 would involve both the FIA and teams' association FOTA sending a clear message that such a moral compass bore no relevance in sport, and would as a result run the risk of setting a dangerous precedent whereby any forms of future civil unrest do not justify the cancellation of an event. The Bahrain GP - providing it is conducted 'trouble-free' within the gates of the event itself - would stand as evidence that such internationally staged events could continue amidst such political situations.

To undertake such morality however would also raise the question over where a distinct line between 'right' and 'wrong', 'moral' and 'immoral' may lie. To use the killing of protesters as evidence also raises questions over intolerance and clampdowns in China -which statistically shows the highest number of executions year on year- and in the UK also where recent reports demonstrated Ian Tomlinson -killed at G20 protests in London in 2009- was unlawfully and un-necessarily struck by a police officer.

Formula 1 and sport as an entire entity now unwittingly finds itself caught in the middle of a moral decision, with no recluse or easy fix available. Either decision will set a precedent for the future and associate individual sports with certain images that may be more enduring than any previous scandals.

- sandlefish -

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