The Formula One series may be only a few hours away from testing in Barcelona and a few weeks away from the first race in Australia but it is only 60-days away from the scheduled race in Bahrain. Bahrain, regardless of how good or not-so-good the race and track may be, is mired in political overtones since the civil unrest began a few years ago. Each year is a question of safety and morality but the organizers of the race are keen to put on a good show for 2013.
“There is always a special moment or two for whoever attends the Bahrain Grand Prix, be it on the track or off of it, and we would like all the fans to ‘Imagine Your Moment’ and feel the excitement of our upcoming Grand Prix,” said circuit boss Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
A little marketing campaign magic and maybe the situation will be forgotten? Not likely. Progress, however, seems to have been made recently when King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa proposed that the nation engage in a new dialogue in which both sides could meet weekly to discuss the situation.
Bahrain’s situation differs from those elsewhere in the Middle East as as the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl points out, the greater element may be the lack of numerous hardline players on both sides:
Perhaps best of all, Bahrain has some sensible moderates in key positions on both sides. In the ruling family, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, an urbane graduate of American University and Cambridge, has been prodding his family to strike a deal with the opposition all along — and seems open to the groundbreaking steps toward democracy that would be required to satisfy the opposition.
On the other side can be found politicians such asKhalil Marzook, an influential representative of al-Wefaq who visited Washington last week to lay out the party’s position. While opposition protesters in the streets routinely call for the overthrow of the regime and the prosecution of the al-Khalifas, al-Wefaq has banned such slogans from its demonstrations — and Marzook says it is seeking “power sharing” with the family within a constitutional monarchy. Morocco, whose heredity king now coexists with an elected Islamist government, offers an example.
Perhaps progress can be made and this year’s Grand Prix will go off without the stigma of civil unrest and dissent. According to race organizers, the goal is to increase turnout to 100,000 attendees:
“BIC hopes to come close to matching its biggest-ever turnout to the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend of 100,000 fans in 2010,” a statement said.
Let us hope all remains calm and that Bahrain can work toward a peaceful solution accommodating both sides.