Bahrain successfully hosted the 2012 Formula 1, with the race completed. Despite efforts by Shiite opposition groups to stage large protests against holding the tournament, clashes with security forces were limited to the firing of tear gas. There was one reported fatality.
Protests have continued since the start of the Arab Spring by the country’s Shiite majority against the ruling Sunni government. The protestors aim to delegitimize the regime and have consistently called for international bodies to boycott the government until their demands are accepted. Some Bahrainis accuse Iran of backing the protestors.
The announcement by F1 that they intended to hold this year’s tournament triggered calls by the mainly Shiite opposition to cancel the games, fearing that holding them without a solution to their grievances would legitimize the regime. The government had hoped that by holding the F1, it would indicate that the country has passed the civil unrest that engulfed the country since the start of the Arab Spring.
Most Western journalists were banned from entering the country to cover the tournament, fearing that the media would cover the protests.
April 23, 2012
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
The holding and completion of the Formula 1 race in Bahrain reduces the chances of an immediate rise in civil unrest. It was feared that the protests would lead to widespread clashes with the security forces. Many protestors hoped that intense protests would lead to F1 cancelling the event.
The successful holding of the event is an overall positive development. However, denial of representatives of world media entry into the country has raised much concern about press freedom. This has led to reputational damage to the government’s efforts to portray a sense of normality and openness.
Although the country still faces the same threat as it did before the tournament was, there is an overall reduction in risk level.
The figure below shows the make-up of the Bahraini population: