Bahrain’s controversial Formula One Grand Prix event will go ahead today despite ongoing violence in the Gulf state.
Authorities in Bahrain have said they are confident the race, which is due to start at 3pm, will not be disrupted by protesters after authorities bolstered security around the race track.
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa on Sunday declared he was committed to reform, saying in a statement he wanted to “make clear my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in our great country”.
“The door is always open for sincere dialogue amongst all our people,” he added.
Protests in the Gulf state intensified at the weekend after the body of a Shia man killed in clashes with security forces was discovered just hours before the event was due to begin.
It has since been claimed that Salah Abbas Habib was killed by shotgun pellets fired by riot police.
Anti-government protesters have threatened “days of rage”, but organisers have ignored calls to cancel the race for a second year running. Human rights groups and activists estimate that at least 25 people have died since the latest round of protests began.
Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa has said scrapping the race “just empowers extremists”, and has insisted that holding the race would “build bridges across communities”.
Jean Todt, president of governing body FIA, said he had no regrets about the decision to go ahead with the race. “On rational facts, it was decided there was no reason to change our mind,” he said.
On Thursday evening a petrol bomb exploded near a vehicle carrying four members of the Force India support team. The team said two staff, a data engineer and a radio contractor, had decided to return home to the UK after the incident.
The Gulf state has been in turmoil since a democracy movement erupted last year following Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
Protests were initially crushed, killing dozens, but youths still clash daily with riot police in Shi'ite Muslim districts, and thousands take part in opposition rallies.
Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim ruling al-Khalifa dynasty hopes the race will offer an opportunity to show the world that Bahraini life is returning to normal.