Bahrain Wins Back Formula One Grand Prix

Originally published on June 3, 2011 3:14 pm

Just as Bahrain was scheduled to host it's first Formula One Grand Prix, the country erupted with protests. The country's Shiite majority demanded reform from the Sunni royalty.

The Grand Prix was cancelled amid a bloody crackdown that culminated with the government calling in troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council and the dismantling of the Pearl Roundabout, which had become the Bahraini opposition's Tahrir Square.

Earlier this week, as Mark reported, Bahrain lifted its state of emergency and issued a stern warning to protest leaders, who were basically told by authorities, "we can still get you."

Today, as Reuters puts it, Bahrain "scored a public relations coup," when it was announced that it will host a Formula One race on October 30. Reuters reports:

Despite calls by human rights groups against reinstating the race, a source told Reuters that the vote for Bahrain had been unanimous. ...

"As a country we have faced a difficult time, but stability has returned; with businesses operating close to normal, the State of National Safety lifted and countries removing travel restrictions," said Bahrain International Circuit head Zayed R Alzayani.

"Collectively, we are in the process of addressing issues of national and international concern, and learning lessons from the recent past. By the time the Grand Prix arrives we will be able to remind the world about Bahrain at its best."

Alzayani said the race would attract 100,000 visitors, support 3,000 jobs and deliver a $500 million economic boost.

Al Jazeera reports that at least one advocacy organization has already started a campaign against the race. They report that Avaaz has a petition with some 320,000 signatures that call for Red Bull and other Formula One teams not to participate in the race:

Alex Wilks, Avaaz's campaign director, slammed the decision by international motorsport's governing body to go ahead with the race.

"Formula 1's decision is a kick in the teeth for the Bahraini people. The race will happen in a country where government troops continue to shoot and arrest peaceful protesters. Money has trumped human rights and good judgement, so now F1, plus Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, and every other team will be directly linked with a bloody crackdown that's ruined the lives of hundreds of innocent people," he said in a statement released shortly after the decision was announced.

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