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Spanish town reviews “Running of the Balls” security 

PAGE 18 SPANISH

OFFICIALS in a Spanish town which replaced the use of live bulls for fiesta races with giant balls have decided to look again at the popular event following injuries to two spectators.

For the last seven years, Mataelpino in Madrid has used giant “snowballs” instead of bulls as part of a festival watched by thou-sands of people. The giant white balls are used in the event known as the “boloencierro” (“Run-ning of the balls”) and can hurtle down roads as fast as a bull can run but are not supposed to cause the same sort of carnage or cruelty.

However, weighing in at 300 kilos, the same size as a small bull, they can still pack quite a punch.

During one of the runs, the giant ball was careering down the route when it smashed into a barrier and shot off towards an unsus-pecting spectator.

He was unable to get out of the way and was floored by the ball, hitting his head on the ground and suffering a serious head injury.

Earlier, another runner suffered three broken ribs when the ball hit him.

The local council says it will now review the security of the annual event which was introduced with the best of intentions.

Whilst other parts of Spains still use bulls for their runs, Mataelpino intro-duced the white synthetic balls instead, three metres wide. They are capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 kilometres an hour on sloping parts of the 700 metre route.

The local Mayor, Javier de los Nietos said the annual event had become increasingly popular and this year attracted 700 competitors.

“It is a spectacle offering something different from the bulls as well as cheaper, in which a very large ball is used. It’s a big ball and you have to have the same pre-cautions as any other risky activity”, he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

One of the ideas being suggested is to put padding on the curves of the route and the council will be looking at the design of the barriers, possibly adding a second layer for greater protection.

It is felt the danger zones are only in the curved areas.

Meantime, Mataelpino’s alternative idea to using live bulls is being adopted by other parts of Spain though perhaps with balls which weigh slightly less.