Return of the F1

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Formula One Grand Prix to be reinstated this year, after being postponed due to the violent pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. The sporting event is estimated to be worth US$600 million (Dh2.2 billion) to the country’s economy. The F1 governing body on Friday announced a unanimous decision to reschedule the event for October 30.

This announcement is accompanied with mixed feelings among those associated. Despite the lifting of state of emergency in Bahrain, this decision has met with criticism with human rights campaigners and present and former drivers saying the race should not go on. 1996 world champion Damon Hill, now the president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, has also spoken out against the decision. The Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) had also expressed concern about the decision, but not because of human rights or safety questions in Bahrain. Their concern roots fromthe extra strain this event is expected to exert on their staff.

However, many support reinstating the race on the basis of the political and economic gains for the country, after having faced a difficult time. The race is the single most important event for Bahrain’s tourism industry, attracting visitors from around the world. Most hotels usually sell out all their rooms for the event.

Tourism in Bahrain has been hit hard by unrest that triggered a three-month state of emergency. GCC troops entered the country and governments warned their citizens against traveling to the kingdom. Bahrain’s Gulf Air also cancelled a number of flights because of unrest in the country and elsewhere in the region.

“It’s more about restoring confidence than the money itself. We will cash in a bit. We won’t make up for the losses that we have seen throughout the last three months.”

The 2008 Grand Prix in Bahrain generated an estimated $116.8m of income from visitor spending on accommodation, food and beverage, shopping and travel, the study showed. The race creates about 600 jobs directly and indirectly.

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