By Andrew Valente
A new lion is on sentry duty at the Mandarin Chinese restaurant near Plaza Gomila after the original one was knocked off its pedestal and destroyed by vandals last September.

It is an exact copy of its twin at the other side of the façade and cost restaurant owner Yeung Thung Shing 1'200 euros. Over a period of several months, Chinese artist Yang Xiong spent days of painstaking work on it to make sure it was a perfect copy of the other lion.

The original rock-solid lion weighed more than 400 kilos and was cemented to its pedestal. But weekend vandals in the Plaza Gomila area, high on drink and drugs, were able to knock it over last September.

The lion's head broke off and was so badly damaged that it was irreparable. “I brought those two lions from Taiwan in 1988,” said Mandarin owner Yeung, “and they cost me a total of 10'000 dollars. Transport costs and customs duty were higher than the actual price of the lions.” The cost of bringing a new lion from Taiwan at today's prices would have been prohibitive, so he asked Yang Xiong to do a copy of the remaining lion. The new lion has a metallic interior that is covered with heavy-duty plaster. Yang Xiong was meticulous in his efforts to make a perfect copy and the work took much longer than he expected.

At one stage he was hampered by this year's inclement weather, because the days and nights were too damp to allow the plaster to dry properly.
When the work was finally completed, every intricate detail carefully copied, Yang Xiong had to wait for several weeks for the plaster to dry. Fearing that the white plaster lion would be an irresistible temptation for vandals with graffiti spray cans, he wrapped the lion in several layers of thick paper and tied it on with tough string.

Now he has done his own paint spray job and the new lion is of a shiny golden hue. But the lion on the other side, in position for the past 16 years, now looks a bit tarnished. His next job is to respray the other lion so that they both look like new.

Vandalism in the Plaza Gomila has been a problem for years due to the weekend invasion of young people out for a high time with drink and drugs. Other shop fronts have been vandalised and rubbish containers are forever being pushed downhill and overturned, their contents spilling all over the streets and pavements.

The teenagers take over the area to such an extent that many elderly British residents never go out on weekend nights.
Maureen Rowland, who has lived in Terreno for 40 years and used to own the famous Africa Bar in Calle Robert Graves, is one of those who never goes out alone on Friday and Saturday nights. “These young people are frightening,” said Maureen. “It's murder on Friday and Saturday nights because these kids are everywhere. They walk in the middle of the street and don't even let the cars get by.” In the 60s and 70s the Plaza Gomila area was the hub of the island's nightlife. Tourists came from as far away as Puerto Andratx and Puerto Alcudia to enjoy its English-owned bars and restaurants and, especially, the world-famous Tito's nightclub with its fabulous views over the Bay of Palma.

But when holiday resorts started to get their own discotheques and bars run by English people, there was less need for visitors to make the long journey to Plaza Gomila.

At the same time, other areas in Palma increased their nightlife attractions and Plaza Gomila's popularity as a nighttime rendezvous plummeted. Restaurants, bars and other businesses started to close and the area soon fell into almost complete degradation and looked like a war zone.

The good news is that this downward trend has come to a long awaited halt. The Mandarin's new golden lion is only one of the more visible signs that things are finally looking up in Terreno.

The new convention centre next to the Hotel Victoria will soon be open and that alone will raise the tone of the area. But there are other signs that suggest a revival is underway: little shops are opening up along the main street and there is a considerable amount of restoration work going on. It will be some time before Terreno and Plaza Gomila return to the glory of the old days, but at least a start has been made.


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