Bahrain race rescheduled for Oct. 30
BARCELONA, Spain -- Formula One's governing body rescheduled the canceled Bahrain Grand Prix for Oct. 30, saying the decision reflects a "spirit of conciliation" in the troubled Gulf kingdom.
FIA issued its ruling after a World Motor Sport Council meeting Friday, the same day that Bahraini police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in the capital of Manama, eyewitnesses said.
The Bahrain GP was scheduled as the season-opening race in March, but it was called off amid anti-government protests. Authorities lifted a state of emergency Wednesday and offered to negotiate with the opposition. At least 30 people have been killed since the standoff started in February.
FIA president Jean Todt and vice president Carlos Gracia visited the tiny Persian Gulf state Tuesday. They said they were assured by government ministers and race organizers that the grand prix could be used as "a means of helping to unite people as the country looks to move forward."
"This decision reflects the spirit of reconciliation in Bahrain, which is evident from the strong support the race receives from the government and all major parties in Bahrain, including the largest opposition group, all of whom endorse the Formula One Grand Prix and motor sport in the country," the FIA statement said.
The inaugural Indian GP, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 30, will move to the final round of the 20-race calendar. FIA did not provide a date, although the Brazilian GP on Nov. 27 was previously listed as the season-closing race.
Assurances by Bahraini race organizers that the event could go ahead as the protest movement receded were enough to convince FIA it could return this year.
"This is welcome news for all of Bahrain," Zayed Rashid Alzayani, chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said in a statement. "As a country, we have faced a difficult time, but stability has returned with businesses operating close to normal, the State of National Safety lifted and countries removing travel restrictions."
As the council reached its decision in Barcelona, protesters returned to Manama's downtown square for the first time since martial law was declared March 15 to quell dissent. Pearl Square has been the epicenter of weeks of Shiite-led protests against Sunni rulers this year.
Alzayani said the government was in "the process of addressing issues of national and international concern, and learning lessons from the recent past." He predicted that authorities would be able to showcase the country by the time race teams and fans arrive.
The annual F1 race has been Bahrain's most profitable international event since 2004, when the Gulf kingdom became the first Arab country to stage the Grand Prix. Bahrain is also set to open the 2012 season on March 11.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press