F1 race 'is force for good', says Bahrain Crown Prince

Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa says race cancellation would 'empower extremists'
F1 race 'is force for good', says Bahrain Crown Prince
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa Crown Prince talk to the worlds media in the paddock following practice for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix. (Getty Images)
By Andy Sambidge
Fri 20 Apr 2012 05:04 PM

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa said on Friday that Sunday's race would go ahead despite growing tensions in the Gulf kingdom.

Addressing media at the Sakhir Circuit, he said cancelling the race would "empower extremists", adding that he was "here to go racing".

"I genuinely believe this race is a force for good... We are not trying to say we are perfect. We are a real country with real issues," the Crown Prince, who was instrumental in bringing Formula One to the country in 2004, said.

"For those of us who are trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities and get people working together. [The race] allows us to celebrate out nation as an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive," he added.

He added that he could guarantee that any problems seen over the race weekend "were not directed at Formula One".

He insisted that he would not regret not cancelling the race, saying: "Why should our openness be used against us? The race is the race and we are here to celebrate that. I'm here to go racing."

And he downplayed calls from UK politicians for the race to be called off.

Following comments from Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, the Crown Prince said he did not believe their view were representative of the UK political scene.

His comments came after protests had flared in villages surrounding the Bahraini capital on the eve of race weekend.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators in clashes that have been building in the week leading to Sunday's round of the World Championship.

On Thursday, Force India tightened up their security procedures after petrol bombs were thrown near a car taking staff back to their hotel from the Bahrain Grand Prix circuit.

The team said two staff, one a data engineer and the other a radio contractor, had decided to return home to Britain after the incident.

Bahrain has been in turmoil since a democracy movement erupted last year following uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Protests were initially crushed with the loss of dozens of lives, but youths still clash daily with riot police in Shi'ite Muslim districts, and thousands take part in opposition rallies.

Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa family, a Sunni Muslim dynasty ruling a majority Shi'ite population caught between neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran with opposite sympathies in its internal strife, hopes the race will offer an opportunity to tell the world that life is returning to normal.

Unrest forced the cancellation of last year's Grand Prix, and the 2012 race has been in doubt as Bahrain's human rights record has come under fire from abroad.

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