|© AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
A day after the daily anti-government protests turned violent and involved riot police, clashes were reported in the old quarter of the capital Manama, and in a village close to the Bahrain Grand Prix circuit where protesters set fires.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, touring the paddock, said he was pleased that the protests so far have been mostly peaceful. Asked about the empty stands, he said most fans were spending time in the circuit village. He said about 15,000 came to the 45,000-seat circuit on Friday and that he expected bigger crowds on Saturday.
"Keeping Bahrain connected to the international community is a very important thing for us," the crown prince said. "It stops people from looking inwards and allows us to look outwards. It gives people connections to the outside world they otherwise wouldn't have."
The crown prince also dismissed allegations by rights groups that the race was used by the Sunni-led government to gloss over problems with its majority Shiite population. The race was cancelled in 2011 due to the Arab Spring-inspired uprising and was overshadowed last year by massive protests outside the circuit.
"We've never used this race to say that everything is fine," the crown prince said. "We recognise there are issues in the country but they are to be solved through a political process which is well underway. I can name at least four other Grand Prix venues which have political problems but (they) don't seem to attract that kind of attention."