There were many calls within Britain and throughout the world for the Bahrain Grand Prix to be cancelled on the grounds of the unrest in the country.

Even now, with the dust quite literally having settled following this weekend’s race, many believe the Bahrain Grand Prix should not have gone ahead. In the midst of the greatest social turmoil the country has experienced since the “1990s Intifada”, this prestigious sporting event became almost the pawn in a game that, sadly, has cost the lives of many in the Persian Gulf state.

It was argued by supporters of the race’s abandonment that allowing it to go ahead would legitimise the government of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, responsible for repressing a wave of protests since early last year demanding greater political freedom and an end to human rights violations. To some extent, it has, and Formula One under Bernie Ecclestone’s ruthlessly money-focused leadership has long ceased to represent any sort of morals or decency. Tradition has been thrown away by Ecclestone and his cronies, as races have slowly “disappeared” from the calendar, for instance the France and San Marino GPs, to be replaced by those in countries such as Bahrain.

A point that is yet to be raised, beyond the obvious ones about the direction Formula One is taking, is that the Bahrain Grand Prix is almost always a dull, monotonous affair. It feels soulless precisely because it is. It may be somewhat cynical, but it’s fair to say that the tiny kingdom wasn’t picked because of its global importance, or history of motorsport.

As Ecclestone might say, however, the show must go on. So proceed it did, the clash between sport and politics resulting in a victory for the former over the struggles of the latter. Fortunately, it passed off without incident, besides the Force India fandango, but it does raise the issue of sport in this “ever-shrinking” world of ours. The World Cup vote, for instance, which afforded the greatest international football competition to Qatar, an undemocratic, absolute monarchy, and the Russian Federation, which in the eyes of many in a quasi-dictatorship, lacking a free press and still ruled to a large extent by a chauvinistic, military-industrial complex and the pervasive, all-powerful secret service.

Should we even care? Professional sport is so far removed from amateur dreams and the “fun of playing”, and in many ways, with such vast revenues at stake, it never will be organic and is unrealistic to expect this to be the case. We should, actually. As soon as sports fans merely “accept” the fact that a country where nearly 100 citizens have been killed by government forces and the call for human rights has still not been answered with anything but violence and repression, the Syrian Grand Prix could well be next.

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