As the 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix approaches, Citizens for Bahrain looks at some of the reasons why this annual event is so important for our country.
1) The F1 is good for Bahrain’s national unity
This is a Bahraini event held in Bahrain, organized by thousands of Bahrainis who have put effort into making this a success for the whole nation. The race unites people, despite political differences, after a period of unrest and sectarian tension. Even those Bahrainis with little sympathy for the Government will be buying their tickets. The Grand Prix is a national event.
2) The F1 is good for Bahrain’s economy
Formula One is a much-needed boost to Bahrain’s economy and provides hundreds of jobs; as well as the indirect benefits to the tourism industry, catering business and other businesses which benefit from the inflow of visitors, cash, advertising, investment and media attention.
Studies have showed that the Grand Prix has a gross economic impact of around $600 million and supports approximately 3000 jobs across retail, business and hospitality sectors. Canceling the race in 2011 cost Bahrain an estimated $480-$800 million.
3) The F1 is good for the F1 teams
It is clear that the core F1 teams look forward to the Bahrain leg of the racing. Teams like Ferrari and Mercedes also have some of their biggest markets in the Gulf, so this is a great showcase for them and advertisers. They should come with a clear conscience, knowing that they are welcomed with open arms by most Bahrainis. We hope that F1 drivers will still be coming annually to Bahrain, long after the unrest is a dim and distant memory.
4) The F1 is good for showcasing Bahrain
Let’s be clear about this: The situation in Bahrain is massively better than it was just a couple of years ago. 95% of Bahrain is quiet, safe and normal and manifestations of political unrest are a relative rarity. Therefore, the Grand Prix is an opportunity for a renewed Bahrain to present itself to the world and show what it has to offer, as our economy returns to confident growth and our society recovers from the traumas of past years.
5) The F1 is good for Bahrain reforms
The F1 allows the liberal and progressive face of Bahrain to be presented to the world. Bahrain has made a lot of political progress over recent years and it is important that this is acknowledged. Arguably, many of the positive changes have occurred because Bahrain knows it is in the spotlight. This global attention acts as an incentive to consolidate the reforms already introduced.
6) The F1 is good for the media
For the media, Bahrain makes a far more news-worthy and conversation-starting location than most of the other bland stop-of points for the F1 teams and the flock of correspondents who follow in their wake; even though the real situation is far calmer than their reports will indicate.
This is one of the occasional events which brings journalists to Bahrain, so that they can see the reality. Although they’ll enjoy heading out to get some footage of the rioting and honest correspondents will be forced to acknowledge that most of Bahrain is actually very quiet and normal – and not really so deserving of all the fuss and controversy.
7) The F1 is good for the opposition
Al-Wefaq Islamic Society officials have stated that they are not against the F1; but they will take advantage of the press presence to present their cause to the world. This is the one week of the year when the world wakes up and wonders what happened to the Bahraini opposition. The opposition can imagine their moment of feeling relevant again, before the start of the hot summer months where few rioters and thugs dare to step outside in the 50 degree heat and the rest of Bahrain can enjoy a respite. The opposition loves the Grand Prix for all the fleeting attention it gains them – which is why they are out on the streets over the Grand Prix weekend, enjoying their moment in the limelight.
8) The F1 is good for sport
Bahrainis love their motor racing and this event serves as an inspiration to an upcoming generation. Sport should not get tangled up in politics, otherwise half of international events would get cancelled and many of the rest would come under huge pressure to do so. Or are we saying that China, South Africa, the US, Mexico, India and other venues where the Grand Prix turns up have prefect human rights and security records?
9) The F1 is good for international awareness of Bahrain
How many people around the world only ever became aware of the Kingdom of Bahrain because of the Grand Prix?This event truly puts our country on the sporting map and is watched by around 515 million people around the world.
10) The F1 is bad for extremists, terrorists and thugs
The smooth-running of the Grand Prix is a message to the terrorists that their scare tactics have failed. They don’t terrify us with their explosive devices or their crude threats against the general public. The Grand Prix is our definitive statement that extremism and terrorism can never win in Bahrain.