Bahrain ticket sales rising

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Sales of grandstand tickets for the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix continue to soar past previous records. Just 23 months after the Kingdom of Bahrain first brought Formula One to the Middle East, the heart of the Gulf is racing.

As testament to the success of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has made this year’s race the opening round of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship. This marks not only the start of a new season but, as the series moves from 3.0-litre V10 engines to 2.4-litre V8s and the sporting regulations feature a raft of new changes to spice up the show, an entire era in the sport will begin at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) on March 10-12.

With so much global attention being directed towards Bahrain in the build-up to the new season, the prestigious date on the calendar has had a direct effect on sales, particularly those from overseas. In 2005 the total number of admissions over the Grand Prix at the circuit was 77,257, which includes all paying adult and child spectators in addition to all those using corporate facilities.

An independent report conducted at the 2005 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on behalf of the Bahraini government measured that the crowds consisted of 54.5% Bahraini residents, with 20.3% travelling from neighbouring GCC countries and 25.2% international visitors. A poll of the spectators recorded that 40% of respondents had attended the inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004 and 70% intended to return in 2006.

Raising the profile of the race still further in 2006 has been an unprecedented array of promotional events by the BIC and its commercial partners. A BIC media ‘roadshow’ in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai and Egypt has stirred up additional interest in the region, attended by over 200 journalists and 35 TV crews.

Drumming up still more interest, Gulf Air has offered preferentially-priced flight and race packages globally, with accommodation available from as little as $180 per night, on many of its major routes.

In every area of daily life in Bahrain, Formula One has been a prominent feature since before the New Year. Bahrain’s international airport has been completely decorated from stem to stern in the colours of the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix for several months, while no highway in Manama has been excluded from this year’s Grand Prix banner and poster campaign – not also for the race but also the Yalla Bahrain! programme of sporting, cultural and community events.

Supporting the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, Yalla Bahrain! continues to deliver an audacious series of events, organised by the BIC in association with the Bahrain Economic Development Board. The month-long calendar has seen the gala opening of the Motorsport Art Exhibition at the Bahrain International Museum with nine-time Grand Prix winner, Honda driver Rubens Barrichello, opening the display of both international and Bahraini art in the presence of His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Another exclusive event was the autograph session by Jenson Button on Valentine’s Day, drawing a crowd of nearly 2,000 to the Seef Mall on the evening of February 14. Ten days later approximately 20,000 people turned out on the seafront Corniche to witness the Yalla Bahrain! F1 Festival, with high-speed parades of racing and performance vehicles on the glamorous boulevard, the Flying Bulls air display team performing over head and then the sky above the Financial Harbour development erupt in a gigantic firework display. Still to come are the Parkour ‘free runners’ – as featured in the video for Madonna’s global smash hit ‘Hung Up’ – performing across Bahrain and at the BIC in the Jump Bahrain event. The free Yalla Bahrain! Spectacular on Saturday March 11 will meanwhile provide all the colour and light of a carnival, multimedia history of Bahrain and awe-inspiring laser and firework display in Manama.

Keeping the Formula One theme going is an array of promotional offers and competitions from the likes of telecommunications giant Batelco right through to individual restaurants and retailers, and virtually every window has posters and flyers for the race. Not to mention Red Bull driving its RB1 in the streets of Saudi Arabia… or even the number of Grand Prix-themed events that continue to sweep the nightspots of the capital Manama – bringing with them world-famous DJs.

Never before has the Middle East been so alive with Formula One fever. As leading Formula One journalist Joe Saward reported from the 2005 race, the explosion of interest in the sport and the positive effect that the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix has had on the Bahraini economy has given the sport ‘a clearly defined sociological reason to exist.’

Only days now remain before the people of Bahrain and the thousands of international visitors to the race take their seats for the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Not only will fans see Formula One’s new era get underway, but also spectacular added value events such as the free Pit Lane Walkabout for all holders of Three-Day Tickets from 14:00-17:00 on Thursday 9 March, the Porsche Michelin Supercup Night Race on Friday 10 March, the star-studded Pro-Celebrity Races on March 11 and 12, the Vending Area displays and performances and, of course, the lavish Opening Ceremony that will be the first in the sport’s history to be televised on the global feed.

Source BIC