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Inside Story
Bahrain's 'days of rage'
As protesters and security forces continue to clash, will targeting the F1 race make a difference to politics?
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2012 11:31

After three races of the 2012 season, Formula One motor racing is set to return to Bahrain's tracks for the first time since demonstrations began in February 2011, causing a huge controversy.
 
Anti-government protesters say the event planned for Sunday will only fuel the ongoing human rights crisis and they have promised "three days of rage" to coincide with the event.

Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, says: "We are not against Formula One, we have no personal thing against it. Our problem is that repressive regimes, dictators should not be awarded, and this is known as sport of the rulers."

"You can't have normal sports when the situation is abnormal. You cannot separate sports and politics."

- Saeed al-Shehabi, the leader of the Bahrain Freedom Movement

Demonstrations during the Arab Spring and the ensuing government crackdown forced the cancellation of the Formula One circuit in Bahrain last year.
 
Concerned about security, many of the teams and members of international media have been reluctant to return.

But organisers are keen for the race to go ahead.

So, is Bahrain safe, right and ready for Formula One? Why is the Bahraini government so keen to hold the event? And does targeting a sporting event make a difference to a political situation?
 
To help us answer these questions, we are joined by guests: Jamal Fakhro, the first deputy chairman of the Shura Council, the upper house of the National Assembly; Saeed al-Shehabi, the leader of the Bahrain Freedom Movement; and Mihir Bose, a sports journalist and author.

"I think we need to agree that Formula One is a sport and we need to deal with it as sport only. We should not link it with politics or any other issue.... Whether we like it or not, the Formula One brings business into Bahrain...so it is very important for the country."

Jamal Fakhro, the first deputy chairman of the Shura Council


FORMULA ONE REVENUES:

  • Tourism officials in Bahrain say the event in 2010 drew 100,000 visitors and generated $500m in revenue
  • 90 million of that came from the 103 brand names posted around the circuit and the official sponsors
  • Cancelling last year's event is believed to have cost the kingdom some $400m in tourism losses
  • Bringing it back to Bahrain in 2012 is expected to generate up to $500m
Source:
Al Jazeera
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