A sign appeared the other day by a roundabout in Puerto Alcudia. It referred to September 25. Road closure. A sporting event. Which sporting event, I wondered. There were two in October that I was aware of, but this one?
For those of you living in the north of Mallorca, you may wish to look away now. Some of you, I know, can be of a nervous disposition whenever cycling events get mentioned or indeed the I-word. From September 25 to October 24, there will be three big events, two based in Playa de Muro, the other in Puerto Alcudia.
Different resorts they may be, but to all intents and purposes these neighbours are as one. They are on the same bay and they share the same roads. Ones that will be closed, not once, not twice, but three times in the space of a month.
I had failed to appreciate that there are two triathlons. One is Ironman, the other isn’t. Ironman is a trade mark, but not that this will make any difference. Everyone will be saying that there are two Ironmans, one a 140.6 triathlon, the other a 70.3.
The latter is the Ironman in Puerto Alcudia (October 16, make a note for your diaries). The former is the new Mallorca 140.6 - on September 25. The newness had caught me out. Meanwhile, October 24 is not a triathlon. It’s the Mallorca 312, the longest event for sports cyclists in Spain.
It’s possible, more than possible, that I am in a minority in not having a beef with these events. They are beneficial. They bring in visitors in addition to the participants, family for instance. They are good for accommodation providers (not only hotels) and they are good for local businesses - bars, restaurants, shops (especially all the bike shops that have emerged in recent years). Naysayers there are aplenty, and I have heard their voices over many a year, claiming that bars don’t benefit. But they most certainly do, so let’s just nail that canard once and for all.
Benefits there are, but there are buts. One has to do with the inconvenience. While I may be able to cope with this, the same can’t be said for others. Apologists for these events will argue - do argue - get over it, you can deal with a bit of inconvenience once in a while, and it is only for one day.
Oh that it were, but not when three days follow each other in short order and there is also the preparatory upheaval that large events cause. So yes, I fully understand why I may be in a minority, but a beef I have isn’t with the events per se, it is with institutions that facilitate them - the Council of Mallorca, for example.
Let’s go back to April 2016, when 312 was taking place and Ironman was the following weekend. Because of the growing number of events, there was a meeting between the Council of Majorca and representatives from 25 town halls. A proposal was made for authorising only the most important events, those of particular benefit to tackling tourism seasonality. “We calculate that some 150,000 cycling tourists will have visited Mallorca this season. This is a significant number.
We must reflect and determine where we place limits,“ said the then councillor for territory and now minister for the presidency, Mercedes Garrido. Her brief as minister includes public function, which in turn includes the interior and emergencies. She doesn’t have responsibility for the state security forces (the national government delegate does), but she certainly is involved in policing and order issues, and there is a great deal of policing which is required.
Important events which are beneficial to tackling seasonality unquestionably include Ironman and 312. Authorisation for them is totally reasonable, but bearing in mind there are three events in quick succession, it is what else Garrido had to say in 2016 which is why it is also reasonable to now challenge her and the current administration at the Council of Mallorca.
Reflecting on the fact that roads could often be closed, Garrido was of the view that residents associations should be able to give their opinion. She was referring specifically to a situation in Soller, but the principle applied to other municipalities. The Council wanted to regulate events through the law of activities and was in favour of there being a forum or other type of body through which town halls and residents could have a voice. Good. But are there such voices? Well, are there?
One accepts that Covid has meant a concentration of events this autumn, so there is some mitigation. Precisely because of Covid and much-needed late-season tourism, there should be patience and understanding. But this doesn’t let administrations off the hook.
They were aware of the issues five years ago. Covid hasn’t made them go away.