Bahrain withdraws from hosting Formula One Grand Prix after uprising

The long-time governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen are fighting to hang on to power as anti-government protests against the rulers continue. (Feb. 21)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2011; 11:57 AM

MANAMA, BAHRAIN - Bahrain announced Monday that it will not host the Formula One Grand Prix race next month as scheduled following a Shiite-led uprising that led to a government crackdown and has left the political future of the country in doubt.

The race, which had been scheduled to open March 11, was supposed to kick off the Formula One circuit, and is a major source of revenue and pride for the Bahraini government. Earlier on Monday there were reports that drivers refused to travel to Bahrain for test sessions March 3.

Whether or not the race would be held was a major source of discussion in the capital, Manama, in recent days, with widespread speculation that it would be moved to another venue or canceled.

"The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) today announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain would withdraw from hosting this year's F1 Grand Prix race so that the country can focus on its process of national dialogue," a statement issued by the Bahraini government said.

The announcement came as efforts by Bahrain's crown prince failed to entice Shiite leaders into meeting with him for discussions on a political compromise. Bahrain's Shiite opposition is fragmented between those who want to see the kingdom transformed into a constitutional monarchy and those who want to oust the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family.

"After the events of the past week, our nation's priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together," Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said in a statement.

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone was quoted by the Bahraini government as saying: "It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country."

No decision has been made on a new date for rescheduling the race.

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