By Andy Sambidge
Authorities issue statement saying preparations are finalised to ensure security of Grand Prix
Bahrain authorities have said they are fully prepared to host this weekend's Formula One Grand Prix, despite concerns about protests ahead of the race.
In a statement carried by the official news agency, the Ministry of Interior said it has finalised its preparations in order to ensure the security, protection of the Bahrain International Circuit and roads leading to the venue.
The statement added that the event has been given the highest priority by the government's Cabinet which has "instructed the taking of all necessary actions and the provision of all facilitations in order to ensure the successfulness of Bahrain's hosting of this major sports event".
It said that the security situation in the kingdom was "very reassuring", adding that authorities will provide the "requisite level of security throughout the event in view of its importance".
Hotels and tourism facilities in Bahrain anticipate hotel occupancy rates to range between 80-100 percent over the weekend, the statement added.
On Tuesday, Bernie Ecclestone assured protesters in Bahrain that he understands their grievances and is willing to meet opposition figures ahead of the most controversial Formula One race of the year this weekend.
However, in comments that could antagonise rights campaigners and pro-democracy activists, the F1 commercial supremo also compared civil unrest in the Gulf island kingdom to threatened protests against Wednesday's funeral of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London.
Watched by many millions around the world, the grand prix puts Bahrain in the global spotlight - as well as some $40m in the F1 coffers in annual hosting fees - and authorities are keen to use it to showcase the country. It also gives opponents an opportunity to highlight their grievances.
The opposition and government resumed reconciliation talks in February for the first time since 2011, when protests were crushed and at least 35 people died, but little progress has been reported. The opposition puts the death toll at more than 80.
Britain's 1996 world champion Damon Hill has criticised the governing FIA for saying nothing to distance the sport from "things it would find distasteful and upsetting".For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
and by "safe" they mean an event held under full military lockdown.
Sounds like fun! - no thanks.
Not much fun as a live event, but the race is great. There would be a large international TV audience and it would attract more advertisement on the tube with no moral code in effect. Best of a bad situation