10 April, 2012
Over the last week there has been intense media speculation regarding the Bahrain Grand Prix, with comment from those inside and outside the sport as to the current security situation and whether Bahrain is in a position to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix on 20-22 April 2012.
Over recent weeks, a number of neutral interested parties have visited Bahrain in order to understand better the current situation on the ground. The findings of these parties can be summarized as follows:
Lotus F1 Team briefing sent to all F1 team Principals
Two representatives of the Lotus F1 Team visited Bahrain recently to investigate the security situation and sent a report to all Formula 1 team principals on 5 April 2012. The Lotus report said:
“Yes there is a need to keep the circuit and the teams secure and they are doing this and they feel very comfortable about the arrangements. If there is going to be protestation then it will be confined to peaceful protests – you will maybe see some banners being waved and maybe some tyres on fire but that is all that they expect.
“We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand and to be honest if it wasn’t for a few more police you wouldn’t know any difference from the last year we were there.”
British Ambassador to Bahrain, Iain Lindsay
The UK Ambassador – the diplomat responsible for the safety of the majority of F1 personnel during their time in Bahrain – wrote on March 27: “The British government is pleased to see the progress the Bahraini authorities have made in implementing the recommendations of the landmark BICI, chaired by Prof Cherif Bassiouni. I firmly believe that the (F1) event can act as a way of bringing communities together… there are some who favour direct action on the streets. I believe they are wrong, and have little doubt that they represent a small minority of their own community and an even smaller minority of the Bahraini population. Incidents have been been mainly confined to particular districts, away from the city centre and areas frequented by visitors. I have little doubt that the Bahraini authorities will do everything they can to ensure that the Grand Prix goes off smoothly.”
Along with other Embassies, the UK has maintained a “no travel restrictions” security status on Bahrain, last updating that status on March 29.
Ben Wallace MP
Ben Wallace, Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Iran, made the following comments last week:
"Bahrain has made massive steps towards reform in the last year. Many observers have been encouraged by the independent commission of enquiry into events last year and so far 15 out of the 24 reforms recommended have been implemented. As chair of the UK parliament’s all party group on Iran I have been at the forefront of pressurising Bahrain to do more for its Shia population and have met a number of the opposition groups in the past months. If I thought it would help I would be the first to call for the cancellation. I believe however that as things stand, by allowing the Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead it can play a part in healing the country."
Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, Chairman of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry
Following a visit in February 2012 to Bahrain, Professor Bassiouni said:
“"The grand prix is a significant national event, which is of great interest to a substantial percentage of the population and all of its communities. It is, therefore, an event of deserved national pride.
"Aside from the economic, publicity and public relations advantages that the grand prix brings to Bahrain it is, on the one year anniversary of the February/March events of last year, an important point of departure for the people of Bahrain to forge ahead in their national efforts towards reconciliation."
In addition, John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service, who is an adviser to Bahrain’s Interior Ministry on policing, said in an interview this week that the authorities are aiming to provide adequate security that keeps F1 personnel and fans safe without showing overt force that impinges the event. He said:
"It is very much hoped that the policing will be low key and discreet. But if there are problems, they … must be able to escalate their response if need be. People can be assured that if problems arise, then there will be a plan to deal with that, as there would be with any public event in the world."
"It’s a really important event for this country. There is nothing that in any way warrants for the race to be postponed."
Zayed Al Zayani, Chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said:
“What has been happening is that armchair observers – who have not been sufficiently interested or committed to investigate the situation for themselves – have been driving this debate, at the expense of those neutral parties who have taken the trouble to investigate the situation at first hand. This, combined with the scaremongering tactics of certain small extremist groups on social networking sites, has created huge misconceptions about the current situation.
“We have welcomed a number of people to Bahrain over the last few weeks, who have all been able to find out for themselves that the Kingdom is ready to host Formula 1 next month. I therefore urge all stakeholders in the sport to listen to those with an informed, educated view of the situation and to form their views on the facts of the situation, as presented by neutral first-hand observers.”