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SBD Global/April 17, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bernie Ecclestone Offers To Talk With Protesters, But Won't Cancel Bahrain GP

Bernie Ecclestone has offered to hold discussions with Bahrainian protesters.
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has assured protesters in Bahrain that he "understands their grievances and is willing to meet opposition figures ahead of the most controversial F1 race of the year this weekend," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. Ecclestone: "I'm happy to talk to anybody about this, as I did before. We don't want to see trouble. We don't want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don't understand, because we really don't understand. ... Some people feel it's our fault there are problems." Ecclestone "has said repeatedly that he has no cause for concern" ahead of a race that had to be cancelled in '11 after an uprising and bloody government crackdown. It went ahead last year "against a backdrop of petrol bombs and teargas." If some of his past comments have "made light of the unrest," Ecclestone made clear this time that "he understood both sides of the argument and was not insensitive to the opposition." Ecclestone said, "We are extremely sympathetic to them. Don't forget, I was the one, when we had the apartheid in South Africa, who pulled the race" (REUTERS, 4/16).

CALLS FOR CANCELATION: The BBC reported that a group of British MPs have "called for the Bahrain Grand Prix to be cancelled amid unrest in the Gulf state." The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain wrote in a letter to Ecclestone, "We request you cancel the Grand Prix. It is likely to attract as much negative publicity as last year." The letter, written by All-Party Chair Andy Slaughter and signed by 20 MPs, said, "Since April 2012, many more people including children have lost their lives, and the whole country exists in fear and intimidation" (BBC, 4/16). In London, Oliver Brown reported Ecclestone has "likened Bahrain’s anti-government protesters, who on Sunday detonated a car bomb in the capital city Manama, to 'those complaining' about" Margaret Thatcher. Ecclestone risked "enraging activists" with his comparison between their claims of police brutality and left wing campaigners "seeking to disrupt Baroness Thatcher's funeral procession on Wednesday." Ecclestone said, "I don't think the people who are arguing about their position are bad, and I don't think they're trying to hurt people to make their point. We have had all sorts of protesters -- look at those complaining about Mrs. Thatcher. This happens all the time. People use these things when there is an opportunity” (TELEGRAPH, 4/15).

SÃO PAULO MUST IMPROVE: XINHUA reported Ecclestone said São Paulo, Brazil could be taken off the F1 calendar "if the city fails to improve facilities at its Interlagos Grand Prix circuit." Ecclestone has given local officials "an ultimatum to upgrade commercial boxes, event rooms, sanitary areas in addition to the paddock and pit-lane areas" (XINHUA, 4/16).

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