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2013-02-19 09:12

BIG EXPECTATIONS: A big turnout is expected for the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix despite current violent unrest.

Bahrain is hoping for a near-record turnout for its 2013 Formula 1 Grand Prix despite continued violent unrest and political turmoil in the Gulf kingdom.

The 2011 race was cancelled after a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests but 2012) went ahead despite international pressure on the sport not to go and concerns for the safety of teams and personnel.

'SPECIAL MOMENT'

Organisers said in a statement on Monday (Feb 18 2013) that the official 60-day countdown to the April 21 race, which Bernie Ecclestone is 100% certain will happen, at the Sakhir circuit under the slogan "Imagine Your Moment".

Circuit chief executive Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa said: "There is always a special moment for whoever attends the Bahrain GP, be it on the track or off, and we would like all the fans to 'Imagine Your Moment' and feel the excitement of our upcoming GP.”

The 2012 GP took place under the more controversial slogan “UniF1ed - one nation in celebration", which drew accusations that the island's authorities were using the race to make a political statement.

The Bahrain International Circuit said 2012 attracted "up to 70 000 people" but expected to exceed that number due to F1's growing popularity in the Middle East. "BIC hopes to come close to matching its biggest turnout of 100 000 fans in 2010," the statement said.

The GP will be Round 4 of the (so far) 19-race championship and the biggest sporting event to be hosted by the strategically placed country that serves as a base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Two people died on Feb 14 2013, the second anniversary of the uprising to demand democratic reforms, and the unrest continuing for several days with hundreds of stone-throwers going up against police and teargas.

The Sunni Muslim-dominated government has accused opposition groups demanding more democracy of being linked to Shi'ite Iran. New talks between the two sides to try to end the political deadlock began on Feb 10.
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