“Sport should not be involved with politics”– FIA President Jean Todt is against the idea of involving sports with politics.
Formula 1’s most successful driver Lewis Hamilton believes in athletes at his level have a natural obligation to speak for the oppressed, and the Brit has heavily talked about multiple social issues throughout his career.
However, Jean Todt, the President of FIA believes that sports shall not be merged with politics and remain secluded, and he claims many prominent people share his opinion too.
“It’s something which is very dear to my heart,” he said to ESPN. “And since now five years I’m very much involved with the UN as secretary-general special envoy for road safety.”
“If you see the high-level panel I made on road safety, you have Michael Ellison, a former high commissioner for human rights.
“You have Michelle Bachelet, who is the actual high commissioner for human rights. You have Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for refugees. So in a way, it’s a privilege I have to be discussing with them.
“Yesterday [F1 boss] Stefano [Domenicali] came to visit me, and I had Jacques Toubon, the former justice minister who has been until last year in charge of human rights in France, and I spoke with him about that.
“And everybody is in favour of having races wherever around the world. I mean, we are a sport. It’s also something I discussed very often with the International Olympic Committee, with Thomas Bach.”
“Because they have the same problem. And clearly, we consider that sport should not be involved with politics.”
Need to build dialogues
F1 is often criticized for organizing races in countries that are infamous for their human rights violations, Todt claims that a contribution with NGOs is essential to know how F1 can contribute to bringing change by engaging with these countries.
“We need to engage with NGOs [non-government organizations],” Todt said. “And I mean, good NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, who are proper people, to try to say, what kind of contribution we can give? So we are working, we’re working on that.
“You can interpret the way that it helps you. In my opinion, going to those countries gives also the chance for people who are negative about the country to speak, which probably they would not have otherwise.
“So, as I said, it’s a lot of question of interpretation. But, for me, I feel right.”