Jun 5, 2011
Mideast F1 Race Might Happen YetBy JR Nerad
If you’re holding tickets to the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was originally scheduled for March 13, don’t toss them in the trash bin yet. The government of Bahrain has asked the FIA and the World Motor Sport Council, Formula 1’s overlords, to reschedule the race. But even if those two bodies make a ruling soon, the outcome is still rife with controversy. Shortly before the race was originally to be held, political protests erupted throughout the Mideast, including serious confrontations between governmental forces and outraged citizens in Bahrain. With the streets literally in flames, Bahrain’s crown prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa called off the race. But now, Bahrain’s officials would like to see the race reinstated. Human rights groups vociferously oppose the reinstatement, however.
Despite a reported 30 deaths from the protests and the fact that hundreds of citizens have been arrested by the government, Bahrainian officials say the situation is under control and the race should be rescheduled. In fact, Zayed Rashid Alzayani, who is in charge of the Bahrain International Circuit set to host the event, has claimed that both the country and the racetrack are prepared to hold the race as early as this month. That won’t happen, because the F1 calendar is full in June and in July, but some have floated the idea of holding the race in August during what is traditionally Formula 1’s vacation month. That probably won’t happen either because of weather considerations -- the desert country is excessively hot in August -- so the folks in Bahrain are angling for a date in late October or November.
The Bahrain government seeks both the economic benefits of holding the race, said to be worth several hundred million dollars, and the quasi-endorsement of its policies by the FIA and World Motor Sport Council. Human rights groups, which have been appalled by the Bahrainian government’s treatment of its citizens, have called for the race to be cancelled permanently.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the story is the fact that race venue chairman Alzayani is pushing for the reinstatement of the race, despite admitting that about two dozen of his own employees were detained by the government for participating in the antigovernment protests. Several of them are reportedly still in custody. In light of this, we can only hope to see Alzayani star in a new episode of “Undercover Boss” this season.
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