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Big blow for Bahrain as Grand Prix is postponed

Manama, February 22, 2011

Postponment of next month's Grand Prix is a major blow to the country and the national economy, business leaders told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN).

The decision was announced by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, after he informed Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Racing fans and businessmen had been hoping the season-opening Formula One Grand Prix would go ahead as planned next month, despite recent unrest.

Speaking before the announcement, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) tourism committee head Nabeel Kanoo admitted cancellation of the race would be a major blow.

'This is not good for our image and tourism and people will remember this for a long time,' he told the GDN yesterday.

'All eyes are on Bahrain negatively and they should see us moving forward and it's sad if this happens.'

He said staging the race would have shown the international community that Bahrain was not a 'war zone', as it had been portrayed in the international media.

'I think the international media has stabbed us in the back by reporting false and negative information about Bahrain,' he said.

'They only look at one side and put Bahrain as if it was in a war zone, and this is not true. The majority of people are safe and there is no tension, it is very sad how it has been portrayed.

'Our media has not done a good job to counter this and fight back and I feel our media should have countered the negative allegations immediately.

'Pressure should be put on the F1 management to have it here and let's show the world this is a very safe country and Bahrain will get back to normal.'

The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix was due to be held at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) from March 11 to 13.

However, Ecclestone said the final decision on whether it would go ahead rested with HRH Shaikh Salman.

In 2007, Bahrain announced it had hit the $1 billion (BD378 million) mark in terms of the economic impact of F1 since the first race in 2004.

The BIC alone took $10.8 million (BD4.08 million) in ticket sales and a further $33.5 million (BD12.6 million) on merchandise, food, drink and other items in the first four years of the race.

BCCI first deputy chairman Ibrahim Zainal said calling off the race would hit a wide range of businesses - particularly those related to tourism such as restaurants, hotels and transport.

'If it's cancelled it will have an impact on businesses,' he said before the announcement was made.

'In any country where there are a lot of visitors, it contributes to the economy.

'I have received quite a lot of calls from businesses that have been already been affected one way or the other (by events of the past week).

'The Business Friendly Bahrain slogan remains, but people are feeling a bit of a pinch and if it is prolonged the reflection will be greater.'

Economist and businessman Dr Yousef Mashal described the event as a badge of honour for Bahrain.

'The F1 is considered the biggest sporting event in the Middle East and the third largest sporting event worldwide after the World Cup and the Olympics,' he said.

However, Al Wefaq MP and economist Dr Jasim Husain argued that any short-term losses would be offset by stability in the long-term.

'If we overcome our challenges now, our country can head for a really good future,' he said.

'Bahrain can be a model nation in the region, but we must manage ourselves properly.'-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | tourism | event | car racing | motor sports | Formula One Grand Prix |

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