Has Bahrain got the formula for success?

While the Bahrain Grand Prix is designed to show off the island state’s best side to the world, the country is still struggling to put its economy back on track

This week, Bahrain celebrated its annual place in the global spotlight. The Bahrain Grand Prix — run since 2004 — is an opportunity to showcase the country, as millions of TV viewers turn their gaze on the Sakhir circuit.

According to Formula Money, the Bahrain race has the biggest local economic impact of any grand prix in the F1 calendar, at around $220m a race. This is more than double the average impact of any other race, and more than 2.2 billion people have either attended or watched the grand prix in the last five years.

So far, so good. The bad news is that the race has also become something of a lightning rod for the unrest between Bahraini authorities and the country’s disparate opposition. In 2011, protests against the event were such that the race was cancelled, and although it went ahead last year, spectator attendance was down. Last week, as protests grew, a series of explosions targeted Manama, including one that was directed at Bahrain Financial Harbour, according to local newspapers.

But Bahrain is still looking to expand on the success of its Formula One event, including potentially using the Sakhir circuit for additional races.

The head of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, Mahmood Hashim Al Kooheji recently said there were numerous opportunities to leverage off the Formula One race, including linked events and greater use of the circuit, which is presently used only for the Grand Prix in April.

“There is a lot of potential and... that’s why we are dedicated to really looking at how we can explore that opportunity,” Al Kooheji said earlier this year.

“I don’t see [the Formula One circuit] as an asset, I see it as an opportunity. Frankly, it’s under utilised. And we can get a lot of value from this.

“We can see there’s a lot of potential and when I say that, it’s not just money. We have spent a lot of time, a lot of our investment in the team, in the company to really study what [we can do] and which one will do and how we will do it.”

Mumtalakat already has allocated $42m for new tourism and event initiatives in 2013, but none were related to the Formula One, Al Kooheji said. The company would look to compliment the existing event, he added.

“What we want to do is develop such an event [that would result in] a big international event to be established in Bahrain,” he said.

Article continued on next page



UAE diplomat smuggles $2m gold to India - report

UAE diplomat smuggles $2m gold to India - report

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on arabianbusiness.com may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Abdulla

Ronald.. clearly you dont know what is going on in Bahrain. Like Calvin said, you have been watching alot of BBC. Bahrain did not shoot protestors. The shootings that happened were an act of selfe defense. Ofcourse it easy to just sit back and say it could have been dealt with better, but if you are a police officer doing your jobs and see mobs of problem causing pretestors barging your way ready to attack you; what are you going to do?? Saudis did not occupy the country. There has been a treaty for years that all GCC countries share troops when problems arises in any of these states. The only doctors jailed were the ones who lied to TV channels about the situation in the hospital and because the ignored their duties as doctors to take part in protests inside the hospital.
If you dont know what you are talking about please do not leave these comments because they just make you seem stupid.

Posted by: Ronald

Yes Abdulla, enjoy the Kool Aid. You either work for the regime or you have been brainwashed. The people I know in Bahrain tell the true story, as they have lived it, and yes, the Saudis occupied Bahrain, plain and simple. That the money machine of F1 is looking at a new contract shows how corrupt the state is. But Bahrain's problems are only just beginning .Why do you think Rageh Omar and his TV crew were thrown out? He is not known for pulling his punches.

Posted by: Ronald

Thanks Calvin, you obviously got Hobbes to write that missive for you, judging by the typos.
I am in Bahrain most months, and I do actually know people who know what is going on. Clearly your expat faux Irish bar doesn't allow such types.

Posted by: James

I have lived in Bahrain for over a decade and moved over from the UK. The people of Bahrain are warm and welcoming. A small number of violent protestor have hi-jacked the protest movement and are causing all parts of society to suffer needlessly. Bahrain held fair and representative elections, empowered women and allowed the free worship for all faiths. Taxation is very minimal and many basic needs (food, fuel, housing for locals, etc) are heavily subsidized by the government for use by all the Island's residents. This is a great place to live and hopefully through the National Dialogue efforts in place now, a fair solution can be found for all.

Posted by: Ronald

James, you are absolutely right about the people, the most charming of all in the Gulf because you meet them day to day, in the bank, in a taxi etc. But you are completely deluded, like most expats on work permits and living the high life, as to the political situation. Bahrain has the potential, because it is so small, to show the way for the other GCC potentates, but with the Saudis pulling the strings it won't happen.

Posted by: Calvin

Ronnie, please get off you high horse and quit watching to much BBC. If protestors are attacking ivilian and burning buildings with swords and molotov bombs, do you expect any police force to give them a red carpet ? I doubt it.

Please pay a visit to Bahrain if you have a chance.

Posted by: Ronald

When Bahrain started shooting protestors dead, jailing doctors who tended the wounded and allowed the Saudis to occupy the country they lost any last chance of credibility in the West.
The country could have been the capital of Arab and Islamic financing, but squandered their chance.
The royals and their Saudi protectors have only themselves to blame, because no amount of childish spin about race cars will change the fact that the society is riven by dissent that is only going to get worse. The US is entirely to blame for this.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Saudi Arabia's new heir leads revolution of powerful millennials

Saudi Arabia's new heir leads revolution of powerful millennials

Why the youngest crown prince in living memory represents a broader...

Three things to watch as Saudi Arabia names new heir to throne

Three things to watch as Saudi Arabia names new heir to throne

Yemen, the Saudi economy and the Qatar-Gulf crisis will be high...

How Mohammed bin Salman rose to become Saudi Arabia's most influential figure

How Mohammed bin Salman rose to become Saudi Arabia's most influential figure

Profile: New heir to Saudi throne holds power beyond his years...

Most Discussed