Sunday, 8 July 2012

More on bull-running

Having awoken and breakfasted early, I switched on the TVE news channel for an early morning shot of Spanish, to help attune my ears to the spoken word - a regular feature of the day now I'm here, as it was via the internet before I came. I was a little surprised to find a full live broadcast of the day's bull-running event from Pamplona, and followed it with interest. Huge crowds of people, thousands it seemed, filled the streets, spectators and participants. The scene, as they proceeded towards the start point en masse made me think of the start of a marathon race, or a big charity fun run, except for the chanting, cheers and singing of a popular chorus in honour of (presumably) San Fermin in front of a statue mounted in a high wall niche on the street. I noticed guys sporting tee-shirts with 'PASTOR' on the back. It turned out these weren't local clergy, but the officials who look after the bulls.

At several stages the crowd was held at a stand-still for a few moments by a thin blue line of policemen - or should I say thin florescent line, in view of their ubiquitous hi-viz jackets. I guess the idea was to make sure the crowd didn't cram the area where the bulls came out running to the arena. It was an effort to limit the potential damage bulls once let loose could inflict on the crowd. When the moment arrived, seconds after 8.00am a signal rocket was ignited - a video icon used to suggest the event in broadcasts already the previous day. Out came the bulls and the mad dash began - all two minutes and twenty seconds of it - with beasts and people alike slipping on cobbles, and there was a certain amount of trampling of people, by animals and/or each other into the bargain. The crowd streamed into the arena, most bulls ran for refuge into a pen with its door open, stragglers were rounded up by matadors before any of the public could do something stupid or heroic. It was all over bar the de-briefing interviews with the usual banale banter - fatuous in any language, no matter what the event.

I was pleased the TV journalists reported visually and with interviews, not only on the crowd control, but also on the work of the first aid teams, letting them give a running damage report. Just the facts, let the viewing public make up their own minds, just as the people of Pamplona have made up their minds, to let tradition continue, albeit as safely as possible.

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