• Bahrain rescheduling

Delaying the inevitable

Martin Williamson May 3, 2011
A man passes a billboard demanding no leniency for those who opposed the Bahraini regime © Getty Images
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The FIA's decision to grant the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix another deadline smacks of the indecisiveness which has been the hallmark of the way it has approached the affair since the first rumblings of unrest inside the kingdom.

Clearly to anyone other than the race organisers and those with a vested interest in showing all is back to near normality in Bahrain, the situation there remains anything other than normal.

The Bahrain authorities, who the FIA seems to be relying on for all its information, are the very people who cannot be trusted to make an impartial decision. It is politically important for them to try to show the world calm and normality has returned, even if that is untrue. Hosting a major sporting event would allow them to show the world all was well and would be a massive PR coup.

Aside from the logistical headaches cramming in an extra race at the end of the season - which could as a result run into December - accepting the word of the Bahrain authorities that things are getting better is a bit like taking the word of a spin doctor at face value.

Things may well have quietened down, but that has come at a price. The invitation to Saudi Arabian forces to enter the kingdom, ostensibly to protect vital installations, has seen a big rise in reports of dissidents disappearing, doctors who treated protestors being abused, and a general deterioration in human rights.

With the state still under martial law and four demonstrators sentenced to death last week over the killing of two police officers during pro-democracy protests, the situation remains uncertain.

What is clear is that there is no way, given the current situation, anyone is in a position to state categorically all will be OK come November. Despite Bernie's continuing bullishness, that's unlikely to change in the next four weeks, which makes the deadline extension all the more confusing.

And as things stand, none of the teams, drivers or media would be able to get insurance to travel to Bahrain, and that in the end could be the decisive factor.

While few expect the likes of Bernie to desert his friends, especially the rich ones, in their hour of need, the FIA could have taken a lead. Instead, it has done continued to do nothing.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo