MANAMA (Reuters) - Anti-government protesters tried to disrupt the Bahrain airshow on Thursday, burning tires which sent up columns of smoke as the authorities attempt to show life is returning to normal in the troubled Gulf kingdom.
People on the opening day of the Bahrain International Air Show, the kingdom's first big event since major unrest last year, saw U.S. and Russian jets swoop past against a backdrop of the plumes of smoke.
The protesters set fire to tires around Manama, hoping to embarrass the government which cracked down last February on massive demonstrations demanding more democracy.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa inaugurated the show at the Sakhir air base earlier in the day. The government hopes the event will help to draw back investors and businesses to the country.
Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa later said the show would elevate Bahrain's status on the international map, the state news agency reported.
Bahrain is also due to host a Formula One grand prix in April at a circuit near the airbase. Last year's race was cancelled due to the unrest, although the circuit company said last week it would reinstate employees who had been sacked for taking part in the protests.
The three-day air show includes flying displays by American military jets including F15 and F18s.
No plane deals were announced on the first day of the event. However, Bahrain's Gulf neighbors showed their support with Qatar Airways and Oman Air displaying their aircraft. Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum visited the show, arriving on an Emirates Airbus A380 superjumbo.
Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family has offered limited parliamentary reforms but the opposition wants a shift to a constitutional monarchy and elected government.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by David Stamp)