Safety fears over F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain
Safety fears grew ahead of this weekend's Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain on Thursday after members of the Force India team were caught up in a petrol bomb incident and police fired tear gas and bird shot to disperse anti-government protesters.
Activists seeking to oust Bahrain's monarchy have threatened "days of rage" to coincide with the race, while organisers have ignored calls to call off an event that was cancelled last year due to violent demonstrations during the Arab Spring.
While international sports correspondents are in Bahrain for the race, non-sports reporters from Reuters and some other news organisations have been refused visas to visit the Gulf island. Bahrain has been in turmoil since a democracy movement erupted more than a year ago after uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
Protests were initially crushed with the loss of dozens of lives but youths still clash with riot police and thousands take part in opposition rallies. For Bahrain's al-Khalifa family - a Sunni Muslim dynasty ruling a majority Shi'ite population and caught between powerful neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran - this year's race has been an opportunity to tell the world that all is back to normal.
But with demonstrations taking place daily, two members of the British-based Force India team asked to go home after the petrol bomb scare. The Bahrain race circuit said four members of the team travelling between the track and the capital, Manama, drove through "an isolated incident involving a handful of illegal protesters acting violently towards police". "During this incident a Molotov cocktail landed in the vicinity of their vehicle," a statement said.
The circuit said it was confident that Bahrain authorities could deal with such sporadic problems and "can confirm that all the usual precautions are being taken around the track to ensure the level of security is maintained".
Force India, whose drivers are Germany's Nico Hulkenberg and Britain's Paul Di Resta, said they had not been a target of the violence and no one the team was hurt. There were further signs of nervousness among race teams when the MRS team, entered in the supporting Porsche Super Cup series, withdrew its entry from the weekend season-opener, citing safety reasons, without travelling to Bahrain.
- ASian Tribune -