What If a Formula One Guy Ran the United Nations?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/17/2009 05:25:00 AM
It's interesting times in Formula One, supposedly the world's most watched sport--bar football (soccer) perhaps. Aside from Honda leaving the sport for cost reasons at the end of last year, BMW is set to do the same after this year. There's also been this mini-drama about seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher rejoining to fill in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, though this possibility was ruled out after Schumacher concluded that existing neck injuries made him unfit for subbing.

The interesting political angle is that longtime Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) President Max Mosley is scheduled to step down after being its head since 1993. The FIA represents motoring and motorsports organizations throughout the world. Until last year, Mosley was a figure known mostly to F1 followers until he became tabloid fodder over his clandestine S&M activities. As part of a longer-term peace deal with F1 clubs over the future of the sport, Mosley agreed not to stand again. Meanwhile, he has extended his endorsement to former Ferrari boss Jean Todt, whose curious comments we'll look at in more detail. Aside from the Ferrari link, Todt's celebrity appeal is enhanced by him being married to action star Michelle Yeoh.

In an interview with ITV, Jean Todt makes the pitch that FIA clubs with the largest membership should not be given a greater number of votes as some propose. Think of it as the sporting equivalent of qualified majority voting in the EU. Moreover, Todt makes curious statements about the nature of the United Nations being a highly democratic organization:
Q: Your opponent has proposed to change the FIA voting system to give more votes to the biggest clubs with the largest membership. Do you think the voting system of the FIA should be changed in this way?

JT: I don’t agree with this idea at all.

It would concentrate power and decision-making in the FIA in the hands of a just a few mobility clubs that have large memberships simply because they happen to exist in countries with large populations.

That would be unfair and undemocratic. The FIA is the equivalent of the United Nations for global motor sport and mobility. Like the UN every member of the FIA has the right to vote, irrespective of their size. I am committed to this fundamental principle because it ensures that the democratic rights of all our clubs, big or small, are equally balanced.

Quite rightly an FIA presidential candidate can only be successful if he and his team appeal to a broad range of the FIA membership, large or small, motoring or motor sport.
For a guy who led a team favoring one driver (Michael Schumacher) over another (Rubens Barrichello) during its heyday, this appeal to democracy is quite rich. Perhaps that's why he portrays the UN as such an egalitarian institution. If the UN's main decision-making body were the General Assembly and not the Security Council, I would be more convinced. As it stands, the UN is still largely governed by the WWII victor's club. If Todt wins over rally legend Ari Vatanen [1, 2]--the choice of many for this post--I think it'd be more like a rehash of the Mosley years. Max speaks, FIA does; Jean speaks, FIA does.

What if an F1 guy ran the United Nations? Certainly, a whole lot of people who know who headed the organization instead of ol' what's-his-name. Whether non-Security Council participation would be enhanced I am not so sure.