Bahraini opposition leader predicts “violence� for GP weekend

UPDATE #2 Bahrain Grand Prix chairman Zayed Al Zayani has blamed 'armchair observers' and 'scaremongering extremists' for creating alarm over the Sakhir event, which is due to go ahead on 22 April.
Amid increasing calls for Formula 1 not to race in the troubled Gulf state, the Sakhir venue issued a statement in which Al Zayani insisted that those with first-hand experience of conditions in Bahrain saw no reason for it to be called off for a second year.

"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," said Al Zayani.

"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."

The statement quoted a report by two representatives of the Lotus F1 team who visited the circuit recently to assess the situation.

The extract from the Lotus report read: "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 tires 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."

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told BBC Sport that he had spoken to the Lotus representative and been reassured.

"One of the teams sent a person over there recently – and I've spoken to them today actually – and they said everything's perfect, there's no problem," said Ecclestone. "They've been to the circuit, they've been everywhere in Bahrain and they are very happy."

04/10/12 Bomb attack in Bahrain, injuring 7 policemen …

04/10/12 There is a Grand Prix this weekend in China, but it’s the one the following Sunday in Bahrain which is dominating the headlines and looks set to dominate the agenda in Shanghai this weekend as well.

One of the leading opponents of the Bahraini ruling regime yesterday predicted “violence" on the streets of the country if the Formula 1 Grand Prix goes ahead next week.

Speaking in a discussion on BBC Radio 4′s PM program, in which I also took part, Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said, “I’m afraid that it will turn to violence.. You see growing anger against the F1 here, it’s become a symbol of the ruling regime here in Bahrain.

“Some people say ‘Let’s separate politics and sport’, yes you can do that in the UK but not in a repressive regime where everything is in the hands of the rulers."

This threat is precisely what the teams are afraid of. In the last 24 hours one unnamed team principal told the Guardian that most of the teams want the race cancelled, or at least postponed, as they are profoundly uncomfortable about going there. More from James Allen

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