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FM in the fast lane

As the build-up to the 2008 Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain heightens, Becca Wilson catches up with the FM behind the operation.

Savvas Karayiannis
Savvas Karayiannis

As the build-up to the 2008 Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain heightens, Becca Wilson catches up with the FM behind the operation.

Imagine this, it's Monday 11 February and you're the person in charge of facilities at Bahrain's International Circuit (BIC).

The FM team is the support mechanism for the event.

Ferrari and Toyota are half way through the last day of testing their F1 cars ready for the Formula 1 in April and the countdown to the largest event the BIC will play host to this year is closing in.

The ear-splitting hum from the cars driving past at up to 300 km an hour takes your breath away and for a split second, it's easy to forget about the logistics behind organising an event of this size.

But your mobile goes and suddenly, you're brought back to reality with a phone call about back-up generators.

Savvas Karayiannis has been the facilities director of BIC since its decision to form an in-house facilities management team in 2006. He was employed in the January and just after the 2006 F1 Grand Prix, the FM team was officially launched.

Today, the circuit has a core FM team of 10 people and additional staffs are employed before, during and after events.

This year will see the fifth Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix take place on 3-5 April. The three-day event ran at full capacity in 2007 with over 34,000 spectators and this year sets to attract the same number.

In addition to this, 8,000 corporate guests, teams, drivers and media representatives will attend the event.

But it's not an easy job keeping thousands of people safe and occupied. To start, the event attracts a wide variety of spectators.

From families enjoying a day out, to businesses' entertaining clients. Then there's catering to think about and alternative entertainment.

Preparation for the event starts directly after it has finished the previous year. A de-brief took place two days after the 2007 event and on 16 April, local ministries and businesses met to discuss how the event could be improved, with new initiatives being launched for 2008.

Karayiannis starts implementing the facilities management preparations at the beginning of the previous December, four months prior to the first day of the event.

"Our responsibility is not just about the maintenance of the existing and temporary facilities that are erected prior to the event, we are the support mechanism for the event."

"Our principle objective is to run the facility services under our umbrella and add support to all other departments," explains Karayiannis.

The shear scale of FM involvement becomes apparent when Karayiannis confirms that his team are around 75% responsible for track-side operations, including the relocation of barriers, grounds maintenance, furniture allocation, lighting and air conditioning.

"During the F1, we have at least 500 FM staff including stand-by staff."

1620 fire extinguishers go back to the factory to be emptied, refilled and tested.

"We have to be flexible so we employ people that know how to do their job, instead of employing three people who don't know what to do."

"It alleviates any headaches," explains Karayiannis.

Half of the 500 staff employed during the event are cleaners. Normally, the BIC controls around 40 to 50 cleaners, but during the F1 this number increases by around 400% to 260 staff.

"We have a shift in the morning and one in the evening. A lot of the cleaning is done overnight," says Karayiannis.

Security is another area that requires a heightened presence during the Grand Prix.

There are two types of security on-site, says Karayiannis.

The Ministry of Interior are present and Karayiannis employs guards to look after the soft security.

Planned preventative maintenance (PPM) is already in place, allowing Karayiannis to concentrate on other key areas.

From a health and safety perspective, ensuring all 1620 fire extinguishers are operational is crucial.

"Before the F1 event, all extinguishers go back to the factory to be emptied, refilled and tested before they can come back on-site."

"It's a big task and takes around one and a half months."

Also, all the grandstands are required to have the necessary structural engineering safety certificates.

These are just a handful of areas that fall under Karayiannis's remit and not all work can be carried out in-house.

He assigns the in-house FM team minor projects, but for larger contracts, he employs external consultants and contractors.


While Karayiannis is comfortable sourcing companies that will meet his high standards, any tender contract that exceeds 10,000 Bahraini Dinars (BHD), has to go through Bahrain's Tender Board.

This board was created to ensure transparency and equal opportunities for all vendors and companies in and out of Bahrain.

"We seek approval from the tender board prior to tender for anything above 10,000BHD," explains Karayiannis.

Whether it is a product or a service, permission is needed.

Priority is often given to companies within Bahrain, providing they have the resource to carry out the work in question.

But companies outside of Bahrain can bid.

Grandstands are required to have the necessary structural engineering safety certificates.

"Anybody who is interested in bidding on a specific tender will send their proposed bid to the tender board to be open, it's part of the transparency process," adds Karayiannis.


Temporary structures: due to the size of the F1, temporary structures need to be constructed in order for the grounds to accommodate the number of spectators and are erected around a month prior to the event.

This year, the FM team has been asked to set up a temporary grandstand that will be totally covered.

It will house 1,600 people and will be brought over from Dubai.

Due to the value of the contract exceeding 10,000 BHD, permission had to be sought from the tender board.

The Formula 1 Village: vending is a demanding service area, with approximately 42,000 people to cater for.

The Formula 1 Village is located behind the main start/finish line grandstand. It provides refreshments, entertainment and merchandise.

Electrics: in case of power failure, BIC provide full electrical standby for the complete circuit.

Karayiannis says this is impossible to do on uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), so generators are hired and placed next to the plant building.

The cost of the operation can reach 120,000BD and over 30 trailers come from all over the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait. Aggreko has been awarded the contract.

Maintenance of the existing facilities: this is shared between the in-house FM team and selected sub-contractors.

Some of the areas that need maintaining include, MEP, painting and ground renovation.

On top of these and other maintenance areas, each year the FM department improve at least one aspect of the existing facilities.

This year, 10% of the seating arrangements on the main grandstand will be changed. Several colours have been introduced to create a busy look and feel to the stand.

On the agenda for 2009 is security. Currently, the closed-circuit television (CCTV) is watch on individual screen monitors.

By 2009, Karayiannis wants one, single screen to monitor the cameras for the entire circuit.

The track: ensuring the track is clean and debris free is crucial to the smooth operation of the race.

Cleaners will clear debris and rubber from previous races and a truck with a special vacuum is driven around the track to suck out any dirt and grit particles.

It has circular jets that spray low-pressure water onto the ground and the vacuum then sucks up the dirt.

To keep costs down, the BIC has entered into a three-year contract with the company.

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