Todt and Ecclestone reject plea to cancel Bahrain Grand Prix
Todt wrote to rights groups to explain decision
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone
FIA president Jean Todt and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone have rejected a last-ditch plea for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix to be cancelled.
Whilst Ecclestone this week expressed empathy with protesters, and even agreed to again hold talks with opposition leaders, as he did last year, Todt has been notably absent.
Despite the controversy that continues to surround the race, with protests taking place on a daily basis in a number of villages across the Gulf island kingdom, Todt will not be in attendance this weekend.
Instead, the Frenchman is understood to be on the campaign trail as he plots his re-election to office, with the vote due to take place later this year.
That is despite the fact a clear picture of repression was painted for Todt in a letter co-signed by four NGOs (non-governmental organisations), that was also sent to Ecclestone, the teams and their sponsors, calling for a rethink on their commitment to the race.
In the letter, signed by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Press Association, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, and the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade, they claim if the race went ahead “it will be taking place in a country whose government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture”.
The letter added: “Given the global controversy and public outcry, last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was an embarrassment to the sport and all those who took part.
“The race was used by the Bahrain government to broadcast a false picture of normality to the outside world.”
Since then they claim “the situation in Bahrain has not improved since last year. If anything, it is getting worse.
“By continuing to race, Formula One is facilitating the culture of impunity through which the authorities have operated.
“We hope you do not repeat last year’s mistake. If you do, you will again be allowing a repressive regime to hijack your sport for political purposes, whilst it also unleashes further repression to try and silence its critics.
“We therefore urge you to respect human rights and cancel your plans to participate in the Bahrain Grand Prix.”
In a leaked email response sent yesterday, Todt is adamant the race should be seen as a force for good.
Breaking his silence, Todt wrote to rights groups and said. “I take note of your concerns, and those expressed by the organisations you are linked to.
“The FIA is a sporting and mobility federation, in charge of regulating motor sport worldwide as well as representing more than 80 million motorists in matters of road safety, sustainability and integrated transport systems.
“It is our firm belief that sport, and the F1 grand prix, can have a positive and healing effect in situations where conflict, social unrest and tensions are causing distress.”