/ 9 April 2012

Bahrain adviser says F1 security plans in place

Security at the Bahrain Grand Prix will aim to be “low key and discreet” but will include contingency plans to deal with potential disruptions such as demonstrators invading the circuit, an adviser to the Gulf Kingdom’s interior ministry said Monday.

John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service, told the Associated Press that he reviewed the plans ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 22. He said authorities are aiming to provide adequate security that keeps fans safe without showing overt force that impinges on Bahrain’s biggest sporting event.

“It is very much hoped that the policing will be low key and discreet,” Yates said.

“But if there are problems, they … must be able to escalate their response if need be. People can be assured that if problems arise, then there will be a plan to deal with that as there would be with any public event in the world.”

The 2011 race at Bahrain International Circuit was canceled due to a wave of anti-government protest and the subsequent crackdown that has left at least 50 people dead.

There are still daily clashes between demonstrators and security forces, but the country’s Sunni rulers are desperate to hold the race to show the country is recovering from the protests. The protesters, however, are demanding the race be canceled until their concerns of right abuses and greater equality for the Shiite majority are addressed by authorities.

Yates acknowledges there are “pockets of violence” in Shiite villages but said that “95%” of the Gulf island is safe.

He said he expects some protests will be allowed but warns that anyone trying to shut down the race would be treated harshly.

“If people want to protest lawfully and give proper notice, as they have to, then they will be allowed to protest,” Yates said. “But you can’t have a protest that shuts off every road and doesn’t allow people to get to the grand prix circuit. That would be absurd. They can be allowed to protest in certain places where it doesn’t cause huge disruptions and their message can get across.”

Yates noted that anyone copying the actions of the protester who interrupted the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the River Thames in London last Saturday would be foolhardy to do so.

“If someone chooses to invade the circuit, what an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do,” he said. “You saw what happened in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race over the weekend. That man is lucky to get away with his life. Anyone who invades the circuit is putting themselves in danger, putting the drivers in danger, putting potentially other spectators in danger. That will be clamped down on and properly so.”

Despite former world champion Damon Hill calling on motor racing’s governing body to reconsider staging the grand prix, Yates said the race goes ahead for Bahrain.

“It’s a really important event for this country. It’s hugely important for the economy,” Yates said. “There is nothing that in any way warrants for the race to be postponed.”

Those comments were echoed by another Englishman, Bahrain national football coach Peter Taylor. — Sapa-AP