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The Bahrain Grand Prix - business opportunities in the fast lane

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The FIA Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is undoubtedly the event of the year in Bahrain. The actual race and qualifying sessions might last for just three days in April 2013 but the impact of the race on the country’s economy and image runs far deeper.
As a showcase event, Bahrain’s round of the FIA Formula One World Championship at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) is second to none and will be watched by almost 500 million people on TV sets around the globe. As such the Kingdom becomes the focal point of the sporting world and represents a unique opportunity to contribute significantly to the development of the economy. This is where Martin Whitaker, the former BIC Circuit Director and all-round motorsports veteran, comes into the picture.
Whitaker, who worked for numerous F1 teams as well as the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) before taking the helm at BIC in 2004, is now working with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) to ensure that the Kingdom’s business community can reap the rewards that will come from its time in the world’s spotlight as one of an exclusive club of 19 countries to host a Grand Prix in 2013.
“The Bahrain Grand Prix is a fantastic opportunity for businesses, especially in the all-important finance and banking sector, to promote their products and services to a worldwide audience,” says Whitaker. “This year’s race is being promoted as a vibrant place for Bahrain’s business leaders to network with their counterparts from companies around the world in an atmosphere that is conducive to demonstrating the best that Bahrain business has to offer.”
To help ensure that businesses in Bahrain can best take advantage of the Grand Prix, Whitaker through his company Sportique 88, has teamed up with the EDB and other leading institutions in the business community such as Bahrain's Sovereign Wealth Fund Mumtalakat, to show how they can use the event to boost their own profiles via networking. The event, he believes, should be seen as a forum for many regional and international companies to strengthen relationships, an opportunity to underline existing business relationships and act as the perfect catalyst for the development of new business.
HE Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the EDB, is in no doubt about the importance of the Bahrain Grand Prix to the Kingdom’s economy. “Studies have shown the race has a direct economic impact of US$ 295 million and this effect is seen across the economy, supporting thousands of jobs from shop owners and restaurateurs to hoteliers and taxi drivers,” he says.
“Moreover, the Grand Prix is in itself an important showcase of the wider economy. It performs a vital function as a networking tool, bringing people to the Kingdom and demonstrating why Bahrain is uniquely positioned as the gateway to the Gulf’s trillion-dollar market. As a time to do business, it holds a special place in the Bahrain calendar,” adds bin Ahmed.
As the chair of the business coordination team Whitaker wants Bahraini banks, government institutions and organisations from the private sector to demonstrate their support of the Grand Prix through the slogan 'Pride, Ownership and Commitment' by carrying information about the event and the advantages of doing business in Bahrain on their websites. It is also an opportunity to show that Bahrain has a great business infrastructure as well as wonderful hotels and resorts and world-class shopping and entertainment facilities.
“We can provide all the information, which includes multimedia presentations, and tailor it to specific companies. This can be a portal for networking which goes beyond the event in Bahrain. For instance the Bahrain business community should take a holistic view of the F1 Championship and recognise how the Kingdom’s place on the Grand Prix calendar, alongside global economies and industrial nations, places it in an enviable and desirable position for business development on an international scale throughout the year,” emphasises Whitaker.
The actual event promises to be a treat this year. BIC Chief Executive Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa at an event kick starting the 60-day build-up to the race on 21 April commented: “There is always a special moment or two for whoever attends the Bahrain Grand Prix, be it on the track or off of it, and we would like all the fans to ‘Imagine Your Moment’ and feel the excitement of our upcoming Grand Prix".
As Bahrain's most significant annual sporting, business and leisure event he is hoping that the initial ticket and corporate sales figures will lead to the 2013 event being one of the most successful on record. This year BIC has signed entertainers from all over the world to be at the Grand Prix, from countries including France, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, China and India.
The circuit is known for its landmark VIP corporate viewing tower and it also offers first class hospitality suites, the Formula One Paddock Club, the Gulf Air Club, grandstands and spectator areas for over 40,000 people. Whitaker sees the Grand Prix initiative energising the Bahrain business community. The aim of the organisers is to create a unique business-focused environment that is a differentiator for Bahrain where guests are entertained at a forum on both the Saturday and the Sunday. A Business Breakfast at the circuit will be followed by a plenary session with high-profile business speakers, a panel discussion and then a networking session with guests encouraged to meet with business leaders from the region and around the world. All this conducted in the most highly-charged 'office' in the sporting world – the Formula One Paddock Club. Situated above the Formula One garages and Pit Lane the Paddock Club offers exclusive access to the world of Formula One with balconies that afford priceless viewing of pit stops, exclusive access to the pit area with scheduled pit lane walks and access to the finest dining experiences. Driver and team principal visits give the Paddock Club guest the chance to rub shoulders with some of the legends of the sport while experiencing the opportunity of doing business at over
Tha Bahrain Banker Spring 2013