The sponsors of the Formula One auto race say they plan to limit or stop their sponsorship for the Bahrain Grand Prix amid ongoing anti-regime demonstrations in the country.
The sponsor companies said they would not display their brands in the event to save money for the less politically sensitive events in the future.
Thomson Reuters, a partner of the Williams Formula One team, and Vodafone, which sponsors the McLaren team, are among the companies that will limit their involvement in the Bahrain Grand Prix this month.
However, some sponsors said they would focus their activities on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November instead of the Bahrain race.
“Abu Dhabi has taken a lot away from Bahrain. Notwithstanding the trouble in Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi race is more interesting for sponsors,” said sponsorship consultant Jim Wright.
Bahrain is preparing to host the Formula One Grand Prix on April 19-21, while continuing to crack down on nation-wide anti-regime protests.
Over the past few days, thousands of Bahrainis have taken to the streets across the country to express opposition to the sporting event.
Bahrainis say Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, should cancel the event in Bahrain over the ongoing crackdown by the Al Khalifa regime on the peaceful protests.
Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.
On April 10, Human Rights Watch said the Al Khalifa regime had arrested 20 opposition activists ahead of the formula One race.
“Bahraini authorities are carrying out home raids and arbitrarily detaining opposition protesters in advance of the Formula 1 Grand Prix,” the human rights body said.
Formula One is Bahrain’s premier international event. It was canceled in 2011 as a result of mass anti-regime protests in the country. However, the event went ahead in 2012 despite protests.