By Staff writer
Opening race of the Formula One season scrapped amid ongoing civil unrest in Gulf state
Bahrain Grand Prix organisers scrapped the March 13 opening race of the Formula One season on Monday amid ongoing political unrest in the Gulf state.
The race could still be rescheduled but no firm decision on a new date has been made, organisers said in an emailed statement.
"The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) today announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain would withdraw from hosting this year's F1 Grand Prix race so that the country can focus on its process of national dialogue,” the statement said
F1 commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone had been informed of the decision by Bahrain’s Crown Prince earlier in the day, the statement said.
The Bahrain Grand Prix had been thrown into doubt following violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters that left six dead and several hundred wounded.
Arabian Business reported last week that protesters planned to target the F1 race – the biggest event on Bahrain’s sporting calendar - in a bid to draw attention to their cause.
The event boasts one of the biggest television audiences in the world, attracting an estimated 527 million people.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was the first high-profile driver to cast doubt on the event, questioning the appropriateness of racing just weeks after bloodshed in the Gulf state.
“When you hear of people losing their lives, this is a tragedy,” he said after practice in Barcelona on Sunday. “It’s probably not the best time to go there for a sporting event. They have bigger things, bigger priorities.”
Prince Salman said Bahrain’s focus now must be on rebuilding a new national dialogue.
“Although Bernie Ecclestone had graciously made clear that a decision on the race was entirely Bahrain’s to make and was not yet required, we felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest,” he said.
“Our nation’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together.”
Ecclestone said the F1 industry was keen to return to Bahrain soon.
“It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country.
This is sad. I wonder when will these Bahrainis come to realise that what they are fighting for are actually 'charity' not equal rights. Asking for equal rights to FREE housing and ample allocation of easy job in the ministries with fat pay checks are not about demanding for equal rights. They should just learn to work hard and by competitive. So many jobs are performed by foreigners. Bahrain is developing and doing well, not only because it has oil (look at Iraq, Iran) but the leader is doing a good job.
It was NOT the F1, FIA or Bernie Ecclestone canceling the opening event of the 2011 season. It was the Bahraini government! They do not want the attention of the World "solving" their internal problems. I am afraid, now we will see an escalation to the worst in the struggle of more freedom in the Gulf state.
Well, the protestors are saying they are after democracy, equality and freedom of speech. But from your armchair in the UAE you appear to 'know' what they actually want better than everyone else?
I have no opinion on whether the country is developing well, that is really for the people of Bahrain to decide - which appears to be what they are asking for. I do have opinions on shooting people for protesting though. Do you think that is also doing a 'good job'?
Sorry Sarah, but your comments are wide of the mark. The protesters (and it is worth pointing out that a significant number of Bahrainis support the status quo, including elements of the Shia population) have grievances against genuine disenfranchisement of Shia from certain public sector roles, the fast-tracking of foreign BDF members who have been given citizenship, money housing etc. when many Shia live in poverty, and a PM that they perceive has looted the country. This is not just about getting free housing and easy jobs, it's about proper representation and the implementation of a more democratic process.
I disagree, it's not because the government does not want others to take an even closer look at what's going on in the country. Am sure if you have been following events closely, everything is being scrutinized quite openly here and very closely by the media globally.
It is not befitting to have such an event a few weeks after what has happened here. There are far more important issues that need to be resolved in the immediate turn and the country is in a "National Dialogue" phase. Inshalla the country will emerge stronger and more determined from this and there is no way back from here.
F1 if it does not come back this year, will be back next year.
Theocracy is an ugly word. If protestants held a certain number of seats in the States and catholics held a lesser amount, I doubt that there would be protests and riots and death. We just wouldn't care because its the actual day to day proper running of the country and fairness to the quality of their lives that is important...not the religious labels of what sect of a particular one religion you are. Bahrain is one of the freest and fastest growing economic markets on the planet and from what I have seen, Bahrain was nowhere near the tyranny of Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. Odd to see a woman on television 3 days ago being interviewed in the chaos talking about how the government is not fair to the people and doesn't provide for them while she had an iphone in one jewelry-encrusted hand and another phone in the other. This jump onto the bandwagon of revolution has got to stop. If not, it has to be done with a less hostile approach and made for the right reasons. From both sides.
Petere, I am sorry but your comparison to the US is naive. Does the US Govt actively deny people of a particular sect jobs in govt? Bahrain was not tyrannic, but 60% of its population were given second priority in jobs and rights. And I am talking about 60% of its citizens, not 60% of its population with migrant workers. The fact that a woman with wealth has the courage to actually march for rights shows its not entirely about money though. It shows how one cannot expect a large section of a country's populaton told they are are not as good as another section and hence must take back seat in everything