Bahrain Cancels Grand Prix Event

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Concerns over anti-government protests in the Gulf nation of Bahrain have led to the cancellation of a major tourist event, the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Formula 1 championship's season opener.

The event, scheduled for March 13, has brought race fans and tourists to the area ever since its inception in 2004 and has become a permanent fixture on the Formula 1 calendar every year. The new season will now start with the Australian Grand Prix on March 27, reports RTT News.

Crown prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifah said in Manama that the country needs to focus on immediate issues of national interest.

"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; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united," he said, according to news outlets.

Protesters took to the streets in Bahrain last week to demand reforms leading to some violent confrontations.

The FIA, the racing sport's governing body, said in a statement, "The FIA is responsible for the international calendar as well as all matters of safety relating to the stakeholders involved in Grand Prix racing. We support the decision."

Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone said he wished the Middle East nation well and he looked forward to returning to Bahrain soon.

"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. The hospitality and warmth of the people of Bahrain is a hallmark of the race there, as anyone who has been at a Bahrain Grand Prix will testify. We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon," he said in a statement.

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