Saturday, September 24, 2016

Second Time Of The Year Again: Ironman

It's that time of the year again. Oh, hang on, it's that second time of the year again. The difference is that this time the time is longer. The race is longer. The time for closures is longer.

Ironman. There is no escape from it. For the days leading up to it, the event encircles you. You're trapped (partially) if you want to get into the port. It means a detour. The participants are on the roads and streets and sometimes in the water. They're riding, they're running, they're risking the jellyfish. All because of training. Getting in shape for the mammoth day.

In newsagents, shops, bars, there is the sound of the local tongue mangling the word Ironman. It is not just you, dear English-speaker, who utters the word darkly. Or at times sarcastically. In Eroski, a couple of likely ironmen receive some advice in the local tongue that they don't understand. They laugh, not knowing why. They shouldn't be.

In a newsagents, this is the one that Boulevard runs down in Playa de Muro, there is talk. What is to become of us come Saturday? How will we manage? Ironman, a plague on both thy two races.

Then come the day, and you are trapped. Imprisoned. Incarcerated. For hours upon hours. Ironman tightens its iron grip and refuses to let go. And an eery silence hangs over Alcudia. It is one of non-traffic. The European Car Free Day has just shifted two days. There are no vehicles, save for the occasional siren of a police car punctuating blissful silence.

Given the above, you might conclude that I'm in the anti-camp. In fact, I am not. I appreciate the benefits. The kudos for Alcudia in promoting sports tourism. The financial returns. There's no need for the "studies" that crop up each year to itemise how many millions of euros are generated. Figure it out for yourselves. Take 3,000 participants. More indeed. Double them to take account of partners. Allocate, for example, five days of stay. Multiply by a nightly rate. Then add on the organisers. More family. More friends. It's a back of a fag packet simple calculation, and astonishingly - as witnessed after the May Ironman - the ironmen can strip the shelves of the tobacconists as gladly as any British tourist who otherwise spends no money. But in the case of ironmen, they spend more. The elite may not, but the fun ironmen (if there can truly be such an individual) can throw the beers back with the best of them, demolish a full English or other such delicacy as happily as other tourists. They spend money.

But many are those who curse the day a few years ago when Thomas Cook and the Ironman organisers first descended on Alcudia. They are still cursing, and they want some answers.

Until recently, Ironman, in one of its Facebook guises, has meant the outpouring of f-words and the like. Now, Alcudia town hall has poked its head above the parapet of abuse and engaged. Slightly. A lengthy demand was posted to Ajuntament d'Alcudia - Bon govern. Firstly, it hoped that there would be a response, as there hadn't previously been one. Then it asked, among other things, what the town hall charges to stage Ironman. How does the closure of roads for a private event, came a further question, correspond to the right of freedom of movement under the Spanish Constitution. What about those who are unable to access medical attention?

This was couched in somewhat ironic terms through reference to "bon govern" (good government) and to transparency. Back came a simple reply. Any citizen is, as ever, invited to go to the town hall to discuss the matter. Which was neutral enough not to engage in a Facebook spat. Others supported the lengthy demand and points made, and the overall point was that perhaps the town hall could benefit from being more open. Its response, akin to the automated responses on Trip Advisor by hotels who clearly don't give a damn, was not adequate.

Each year, each twice a year, we go through the same procedure. There is no easy solution other than not staging the event (which would be a mistake, in my opinion). But the town hall could do with attempting to bring those who are discontented more on side. It should explain better. It should apologise for inconvenience rather more sincerely. It should take account of those businesses who lose money rather than just hail those who make money. It should acknowledge the bother caused to other tourists. It should do all these things.

Ultimately, of course, there is the argument that it is only one day - or rather two days a year. Which would be my point entirely. But then I am not everyone. There are too many grumpy people. The town hall needs to respond to them.

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