To be sure, scandal has always been with us. The annals of British history are littered with the names of great national hellraisers, from Vinnie Jones to Gazza and beyond. However, there is a difference. Recent distasteful behaviour in sport, whether it be the English rugby team tossing midgets, or the bout of al fresco relief with which I began this article, betrays cultural problems, not individual misdemeanours...
Beneath the royal weddings, Formula One races and other events that bore many normal people (myself included), the Anglo-Bahraini relationship is purely material. Bahrain has at least ten years of oil reserves left, and produces 40,000 barrels a day, representing a serious resource pool for British energy needs.
Like last year and the year before that (when the Bahrain race was cancelled), the imminent arrival of hi-tech racing cars, celebrity drivers, harassed team crews (and doubtless several crates of soon-to-be-wasted Moët) on the tiny island state of Bahrain has now become an annual occasion for examining the country's human rights record. That record, like the famous Formula One finishing flag, is ... well, extremely chequered.
Formula One has a certain amount of specification to it and there is no doubt about that fact but unless it becomes a much more regulated and specified sport, like NASCAR, it will be very difficult to avoid the development war which will escalate costs and separate the herd of have's and have not's.