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Bahrain condemns 'scaremongering'

2012-04-11 08:04

PEACEFUL PROTEST?: Protestors against the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix put up a graffiti sign which reads "Stop racing on our blood".


ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Bahrain F1 GP organisers seeking support for their threatened race say a campaign for it to be cancelled is being driven by "armchair observers" and "extremists".

The Bahrain International Circuit produced witness statements from foreign observers, including two members of the Lotus team, and the British ambassador to the Gulf kingdom, in defence of the April 22 event. It said a briefing by the Lotus representatives was sent to all 12 team principals on April 5 ahead of this weekend's Chinese GP in Shanghai, where a final decision is expected.


Bahrain, which has endured almost daily protests and unrest since an uprising against the government in February 2011 was bloodily suppressed, is due to follow on immediately after China. There have been increasingly vocal calls for it to be cancelled, however, with one unnamed team principal telling Britain's The Guardian newspaper that all the teams were hoping the governing FIA would call off the race.

The Lotus report said: "Yes, there is a need to keep the circuit and the teams secure, and they are doing this and they feel very comfortable about the arrangements. 

"If there is going to be protestation then it will be confined to peaceful protests - you will maybe see some banners being waved and maybe some tyres on fire but that is all they expect. We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand.

"If it wasn't for a few more police you wouldn't know any difference from last year when we were there."

The 2011 race was cancelled due to the unrest after an initial postponement; the most recent race there was in 2010.

The circuit statement also quoted John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police who now advises Bahrain's Interior Ministry, as saying policing would be low-key and discreet.


Yates said: "There is nothing that in any way warrants the race to be postponed."

Circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani said in a statement that "armchair observers" had been driving the debate at the expense of neutral parties "who have taken the trouble to investigate the situation at first hand".

He added: "This, combined with the scaremongering tactics of certain small extremist groups on social networking sites, has created huge misconceptions about the current situation."

He urged all stakeholders in the sport to "listen to those with an informed, educated view of the situation and to form their view on the facts of the situation as presented by neutral first-hand observers".

The governing International Automobile Federation has said it was in daily contact with foreign embassies and authorities in Bahrain while F1's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone is eager for the race to go ahead.

Al Zayani said the race contributed the equivalent of R1.7-billion directly to the local economy and R3.1 - 3.9-billion indirectly.

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