Ecclestone plays down Bahrain problems

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) F1 Supremo with His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, First Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2005. DIGITAL IMAGE BEST IMAGE
Bernie Ecclestone with Bahrain Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa

F1 boss  Bernie Ecclestone has toned down his comments ahead of the weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Earlier, amid reports of explosions near the Formula 1 circuit linked directly to anti-government protests against the race, the Formula 1 chief executive simply issued a blank denial.

“What’s happened? They’re demonstrating now? I didn’t know that,” he told AP news agency. “There’s nobody demonstrating.”

However, even the government confirmed Sunday’s attack by a “terrorist group”, while the group itself admitted it blew up the car “in opposition to holding the Formula 1 race”.

And bringing the situation into stark focus are the events in the US, where terrorists have exploded bombs near the finish-line of the iconic Boston Marathon, with devastating effects.

Referring to Bahrain, Ecclestone told British newspapers: “We don’t want to see trouble. We don’t want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don’t understand, because we really don’t understand.

“We don’t want to see people repressed as a result of the race.

“Some people feel it’s our fault there are problems. We are extremely sympathetic to them.”

The 82-year-old Briton, however, suggested the protesters are taking advantage of the global coverage attracted by Formula 1, and played down the threat they really pose.

“I don’t think the people who are arguing about their position are bad people, and I don’t think they’re trying to hurt people to make their point,” he said.

A government spokeswoman told Bahrain news agency BNA that “appropriate security measures” are in place for the Grand Prix.

“The security situation in Bahrain is very reassuring,” she added.

Meanwhile, the internet ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous has threatened to disrupt the sport if it does not cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Bernie Ecclestone and the royal family of Bahrain have learned nothing,” the group said in a statement.

“We will remove you from the worldwide web. We call upon Bernie Ecclestone while there is still time — cancel your blood race now.” (GMM)