Formula One has no concerns about this months Bahrain Grand Prix becoming a target for anti-government protesters,commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Friday.
The race at the Sakhir desert circuit was cancelled in 2011 when a Shiite-led pro-democracy uprising was crushed and at least 35 people – activists put the tally far higher – were killed.
Last years Grand Prix,the biggest sporting event in the US-allied Gulf island kingdom and watched by hundreds of millions around the world,went ahead controversially amid tight security and against a backdrop of burning tyres and riot police firing teargas at petrol-bomb throwing protesters in Shiite villages.
Bahrains opposition and government resumed reconciliation talks in February for the first time since July 2011 and,even if little progress has been reported,Ecclestone felt the situation had improved.
I havent had any negative reports from anybody there, the 82-year-old British billionaire said as he prepared for a double header with the Chinese Grand Prix on April 14 and Bahrain on the 21st.
Somebody who actually lives there came to see me yesterday and said everythings very normal. I think they (both sides) are talking now anyway… so I dont think theyll upset the talks by making protests, added Ecclestone. It didnt help them last year,so if they had any brains theyd just get on with their talks.
Signs of unrest
Demonstrators have continued small protests on an almost daily basis to demand equality and a constitutional monarchy in the tiny kingdom ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa family and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
At least 10 civilians and several policemen were injured last month during protests to mark the second anniversary of the arrival of forces from neighbouring Saudi Arabia which helped crush the uprising. Police said the demonstrators had barricaded roads and torched vehicles. Pictures published in the foreign media have shown slogans daubed on walls calling for a boycott of the race.
Asked whether there was a risk of the race being targeted more directly after the protests and international pressure failed to stop it going ahead last year,Ecclestone said: No,I think quite the opposite. No concerns,none at all, he said.