Saudis sporting soft-power attempt
November twenty eighth the green lights over the greed in jeddah will go out and the first saudi arabian grand prix will into life and though twenty formula one qasr raise a mightily impressive in the start of a race. They will need to rev extra to have any hope of drowning out throughout about the propriety of this event occurring at all a row to which this very explainer is about to make a modest contribution. Let's look at the undeniable upsides. I which one take too long in and of itself. The saudi arabian grand prix will doubtless be a splendid spectacle. It is to be held on a street circuit in jeddah the precise layout remains to be confirmed but it seems certain one part of the track will conduct formula one's spelt machines down the konishi the boulevard which hugs the red sea coast. And the saudis will certainly dredge deeply from the bottomless pit of money to rent the proceedings as sumptuous extravagant as possible. It might even be of crucial importance in the context of next season. The saudi arabian grand prix will be the second lost race of the year. So if two thousand and twenty one turns out not to be yet. Another procession led by lewis hamilton. The wheel of his mercedes come at the calendar man lewis. Hamilton starts an incredible qualifying. They could still be much to play playful when the teams arrive in jeddah. So that's the good news. Then there are the reasons why this edition to the formula. One calendar is the stuff of foreign desk explainers. It is hopefully not necessary to reemphasize the variety and severity of the ways in which the saudi regime is one of the world's most repressive. We do not have all day still less all month. It is suffice to say a regime which ethically inclined businesses would tend to regard from the foreign bargepole formula one does not appear overly troubled on this front in recent years alone. Races have been held in russia as a fan bahrain and china. None of whom would be within sight of the podium at any sort of grand prix of human rights. it is probably not outrageous to suggest that formula one's principal objections to holding a race meeting in north korea. Iran equatorial guinea or turkmenistan would be logistical rather than an ethical. So we know what formula one wants from this. What's more interesting is what saudi arabia is off to. Saudi arabia has some history of recognizing the immense soft power possibilities of formula one in the late nineteen seventies and early nineteen eighty s saudi state airline saudia sponsored the uk based williams team australian driver. Alan jones carried their logo to the one thousand nine hundred world championship. Tell checkered flag often goes allen jones. what a wonderful way to pay is nineteen eighteen world championship. Riyadh's re engagement with the sport is being pitched as part of the modernizing reformist agenda of ambitious saudi crown prince mohammad bin salman though it does not feel untoward lee churlish to note that nba if to whole saudi arabia into the mid nineteenth century have made some distinctly old school d to via for example conducting a ruinous rampage in neighboring yemen and dispatching hitmen to murder a vexatious journalist the un's extrajudicial executions investigator. Agnes calamar has just released a report at pains a- damning picture of saudi arabia's role in the murder of journalists jamal has all of which is tricky to square with formula one's commitment to respect for human rights which f. one has typed out on their website and everything it promises to it says he engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of out due diligence. A sentence which could have been designed to lull readers to sleep inside four syllables. Human rights groups are already speaking of their hope that lewis hamilton who barring mishap will be defending his seventh world championship. Next season might get out in front of this. How has grown more politically outspoken. This year in particular among the slogans on the black lives matter t shirt he wore at this year's emilia romagna grand prix was women's rights are human rights. A repeat performance would give saudi broadcasters amusing connections. Saudi arabia is clearly keen on what has become known as sports washing the tactic beloved unpleasant regimes of staging sporting circuses. In the hope that they may distract from your moral infirmities and impressed with your economic progress in recent years. Saudi arabia has hosted international gulf tennis equestrian and other tournaments formula one one of the planet's most popular television spectacles. He's a massive step up.