The world's most craven sport crashes into the smoldering embers of the Arab Spring.
Until recently, sports fans had little cause to pay attention to Bahrain. The tiny Arab state, unlike its neighbors Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Qatar, with their mega-purchases of British soccer clubs or extravagant plans for hosting the 2022 World Cup, rarely featured on the international sporting calendar. But Formula One (F1) changed all that. In 2004 Bahrain, a Shiite majority kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family, won -- or paid for, frankly -- the right to become the first Arab country to host an F1 Grand Prix race, an event in the world's pinnacle motorsport series, watched annually by over 600 million people.
For the first time, Bahrain had a place on the sporting map. The race was a publicity coup for the country and a boost to the ruling family's prestige. Then came the Arab Spring.
Last season's race was, eventually and reluctantly, cancelled in a storm of controversy as teams pondered the ethics of racing in a country wracked by protests and a violent government crackdown that left dozens of protestors dead. Damon Hill, a former F1 world champion, observed that racing in the "blood-soaked" kingdom would be akin to racing in South Africa at the height of the apartheid regime.
How quickly we forget. A year later, F1 has returned to Bahrain -- kicking off a gaudy three-day extravaganza that begins on Friday, April 20 -- though the political situation in the country is as fraught as it was in 2011. (read more using the link)