- Associated Press - Monday, April 9, 2012

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) - Security at the Bahrain Grand Prix will be “low key and discreet” but will include plans to deal with potential disruptions, such as demonstrators running onto the course, an adviser to the Gulf Kingdom’s Interior Ministry said Monday.

John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service, told The Associated Press he reviewed the plans for the April 22 race. He said authorities aim to provide adequate security for Bahrain’s biggest sports event without showing overt force.

“It is very much hoped that the policing will be low key and discreet,” Yates said. “But if there are problems, they … must be able to escalate their response if need be. People can be assured that if problems arise, then there will be a plan to deal with that as there would be with any public event in the world.”

The 2011 race at Bahrain International Circuit was canceled because of anti-government protests. The subsequent crackdown left at least 50 people dead.

There are still daily clashes between demonstrators and security forces, but the country’s Sunni rulers are intent on holding the race to show the country is recovering from the protests. The protesters, however, are demanding the race be put off until authorities address their concerns over human rights abuses and greater equality for the Shiite majority.

Yates acknowledges there are “pockets of violence” in Shiite villages but said that “95 percent” of the Gulf island is safe.

He said he expects some protests will be allowed but warns that anyone trying to shut down the race would be treated harshly.

“If people want to protest lawfully and give proper notice, as they have to, then they will be allowed to protest,” Yates said. “But you can’t have a protest that shuts off every road and doesn’t allow people to get to the Grand Prix circuit. That would be absurd. They can be allowed to protest in certain places where it doesn’t cause huge disruptions and their message can get across.”

Yates says it would be foolhardy for anyone to copy the actions of the protester who interrupted the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the River Thames in London on Saturday.

“If someone chooses to invade the circuit, what an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do,” he said. “You saw what happened in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race over the weekend. That man is lucky to get away with his life. Anyone who invades the circuit is putting themselves in danger, putting the drivers in danger, putting potentially other spectators in danger. That will be clamped down on and properly so.”

Yates takes issue with former world champion Damon Hill, who has urged motor racing’s governing body to reconsider holding the race.

“It’s a really important event for this country. It’s hugely important for the economy,” Yates said. “There is nothing that in any way warrants for the race to be postponed.”


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