Race will go ahead vows Bahrain Crown Prince
Manama, April 20, 2012
Bahrain's Crown Prince has made it clear that Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix race in the kingdom will go ahead, saying cancelling it would only 'empower extremists'.
Speaking to the media at the Sakhir circuit, alongside Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and in front of television crews broadcasting live to their countries, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa said calls for the race to be scrapped would fall on deaf ears.
'For those of us trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, to get people working together. It allows us to celebrate our nation. It is an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive.'
The Prince was speaking after two of the 12 teams said their staff had seen protesters and petrol bombs on their way back from the track to hotels in Manama.
The Force India team missed Friday's second practice for safety reasons to make sure staff could get back to their hotels safely before nightfall.
He accepted the concerns about safety and security as felt by some F1 teams, but insisted that the protesters were not aiming at F1 as a target.
'I absolutely can guarantee that any problems that may or may not happen are not directed at F1,' he said. 'It goes to show that there are people who are out to cause chaos.
'You (in Britain) had these problems last year in your country and there is a very big difference between protesting for political rights and rioting. The attack that happened around Force India was aimed at the police. It was unprovoked, and it was quite dangerous. But at no time was anyone from F1 in danger.'
He told reporters that Bahrain had problems, but that it was wrong to shy away from events. 'We are a real country with real issues and we hope that you get a chance (to see us) for all our complexities and all our shades.
'I genuinely believe that this race is a force for good.'
Ecclestone also played down the concerns in typical fashion, telling reporters earlier that Force India may have been targeted for a reason that had nothing to do with the race, suggesting that the media were enjoying the situation.
"It's a lot of nonsense. You guys love it. What we really need is an earthquake or something like that now so you can write about that," declared the 81-year-old billionaire.
He could not call off the race even if he wanted to, he added, because "it's nothing to do with us, the race. We have an agreement to be here, and we're here. The national sporting authority in this country can call the race off."
Ecclestone said the decision to go ahead had "given the protesters an incredible platform for all you guys to talk to them."
The Crown Prince said it was important that the race, the first in Bahrain since 2010 after last year's was cancelled, went ahead.
"I think this race should continue because it is indeed a very big event for this country, it is important economically, socially. Political parties from across the whole spectrum, both conservative and opposition, have welcomed the race," he said.