The Briton hired to oversee reform of Bahrain’s police force has written to the head of Formula One’s governing body to calm security fears about next week’s Grand Prix, saying he often felt safer living in the kingdom than in London.
John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, told International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt that he was aware of "very real concerns" but feared those involved in the sport were being given a "distorted picture".
In the letter, dated April 11 and seen by Reuters, he said he was not an apologist for the bloody crackdown that took place after last year’s uprising and could not deny troubles existed in the Gulf kingdom.
“The almost nightly skirmishes that take place in certain villages are a potential block on progress and are putting those involved in their policing and innocent members of the public in significant danger,” wrote Yates.
“However, in spite of how these events may be portrayed through the medium of Youtube and other outlets, their significance should not be overplayed.
Yates declared the protests were not representative of the vast majority of Bahrainis.
“Along with my family, I feel completely safe. Indeed, safer than I have often felt in London.”
Formula One faces calls from rights groups and local protestors to call off the country’s biggest sporting event in the face of continued violence and political unrest.
One UK-based Bahraini dissident has called the grand prix a “tool of repression” by the country’s minority Sunni Muslim rulers.
Team bosses, most of them British-based, are expected to discuss the situation with Todt and Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone at this week’s Chinese Grand Prix and may lobby for the race to be postponed.
Both Ecclestone and Todt have been strongly supportive of going to Bahrain, an influential nation in the sport and the first in the Middle East to host a grand prix.
An FIA spokesman said Todt was currently in Taiwan.
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