There are reasons to allow major sporting events to look away from political repression, even of the most inhumane and degrading kind.
We remember the 1936 Olympics today, not as a celebration of the Nazi ethos, but for Jesse Owens living refutation of racial discrimination, running for one prejudiced, discriminatory nation in an event intended to glorify a regime based entirely on hatred of the racially "inferior".
The Moscow Olympics of 1980 took place in a Soviet Union still employing the tools of political repression, not just in the Soviet Union but across the Eastern Bloc.
While the Afghan war was the reason for the US Boycott of the Games, the Soviet Union was still imprisoning those who dared to believe in way not approved by the State, and were preparing to repress those who dared to oppose their satellite regimes in the prison-states of the Eastern Bloc. During the Beijing Olympics, China was hold Tibet's chains as tight as ever, and the political control of the Chinese Communist party was not loosened.
Yet the fact that both the Soviet Union and China sought to be part of a global sporting event mattered.
Yes, they had their own purposes for doing so, but the symbolism of the sporting itself could not help but transmit messages other than state sanctioned ones.
Witness the Chinese regime relaxing, even a little, reporting restrictions so to earn the approval of the foreign media. In such openings, in such crevices there is greater meaning than perhaps we know. It is possible for a sporting event to be both used by a regime for their purposes, and at the same time, expose the tension and insecurities that such regimes are most eager to hide.
Why is this worth mentioning?
Because Sport can serve a purpose higher than itself.
When Sohn Kee-Chung won the 1936 Marathon as a Japanese athlete, and stood on the podium with his fellow Korean, both with their heads bowed in protest, Sohn using his winner's wreath to obscure the Japanese flag on his jacket, it meant something.
Today, when North Korea sportsmen and women walk alongside their South Korean rivals under the same flag it means something.
So there can be a justification for sport amid repression.
There can be a worth in allowing the worst of regimes a place in the greatest of sporting celebrations.
Perhaps this is because sport can be a way to express what cannot be expressed, as once was said of Bruegel's paintings.
It's why repressive states use sport as a tool for propaganda and as a sign of their power, but time and again, sport is also used to subvert that propaganda.
Sport is also important for those who seek to control others, and those who chafe under that control, because sporting encounters can appeal to our sense of myth, whether of national glory, or our need to find a clear story, to identify sides to support and oppose.
Sport gives us heroes, villains. It gives us outrages and redemption. It gives us a way to tell a story about ourselves, about what we believe in.
Remember, such stories can tell half truths, even in telling important stories.
The pictures above are from the 1967 Boston marathon, where Katherine Switzer became one of the first women to run Boston. The angry man, Jock Semple, one of the race's officials, always claimed that his intent was not to prevent Switzer from running, but simply to remove her race number, as USAA rules insisted women not run more than a mile and a half.
Semple claimed he didn't mind women running, and indeed Bobbi Gibb had successfully run without a number the year before. So was Semple being prejudiced, just playing by the rules, or both? A few years later, he stood on the start line with Switzer, and perhaps by way of apology, gave her a very public hug and kiss.
Perhaps the picture misleads, perhaps it does not. But the story it tells of women being repressed -and running on – posesses its own power.
Similarly, many of the most powerful sporting stories against repression are strange mixtures of reality, myth and propaganda, So much so that it it had to know from a distance, where each ends and begins.
All of which is to say that when thinking about the disturbing presence of Formula One in Bahrain this weekend, we should perhaps ask not should sport be present in such a place, but what purpose is there to this sport, at this time?
What story does this particular event tell us about the sport, about society, about Bahrain, about ourselves as watchers?
I can only think of one.
It says we don't care. That the people of Bahrain, whatever their concerns, their hopes, their demands, are meaningless to us.
We seek a show, we seek spectacle, and as a result, there is money to be made in providing this show to us, and a so cavalcade of justifications are deployed to ensure the show goes on.
This is, I concede, unfair on those drivers, those teams, who perhaps do care very much. But no-one is entirely in control of their own symbolism.
What Formula one shows us is vastly paid, ultra sponsored drivers and teams, always insulated and protected from the world around them, from the society they are geographically and physically located in, uncomprehending of anything but the world they create around them in various locations across the globe chosen for the maximum income to be generated, the maximum audience to be gained. I watch Formula One. I am stunned at the engineering prowess, the physical skill, the mental effort that goes into these races. I have no concern that a racing driver is a multi-multi-millionaire. Why should he not be? It is not down to me to decide what talents are deserving of what financial reward, thank God.
But if you are a multi-millionaire sportsman. If you are a sport that is based on the ultimate literal symbolism of the unity of power, technology, money and competition. If you find yourself in a place where your obligation to compete is being used to support a regime that represses it's citizens, then please. Stop.
To make the strange nexus of sport and fame and repression worthwhile, you need the space for an Owens. You need a Sohn Kee-Chung.
You need the space for repression to be subverted, a crevice in which freedom and dignity can begin the arduous task of cracking the foundation of the regime built stadiums.
Today, in Bahrain, Formula One offers no such presence, gives no such chance of undermining.
Without that element, sport becomes an obscenity, not a triumph of the human spirit over any and all barriers.
That, ultimately, is why there should be no Formula One in Bahrain tomorrow.