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Live! Spain’s bull-running fiesta returns after pandemic hiatus – Health and Lifestyle News – Report by AFR

A red-and-white sea of ​​revelers erupted in celebration on Wednesday, dousing each other with wine in a packed Pamplona square as Spain’s most famous bull running festival returned after a two-year absence due to the pandemic.

The confusion began at noon (1000 GMT) with the firing of the “chupinazo” firecracker from the balcony of the northern city’s City Hall, marking the official start of the nine-day San Fermin fiesta.

Thousands of party-goers from around the world – most dressed in the traditional all-white outfit with a red scarf – reacted in ecstasy, shouting “Viva San Fermin!” and splash each other with wine.

Despite a light rain, the crowd cheered wildly as they waved their red scarves in the air and passed giant yellow inflatable balls overhead while dozens of crowded apartment balconies looked on.

“The rain doesn’t matter. To see the square full again is great,” said Saioa Guembe Pena, a 54-year-old official whose white shirt was already stained pink by red wine and sangria.

The annual festival, made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, was last held in 2019.

Local officials canceled the hugely popular event in 2020 and the following year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, marking the first time the festival had been canceled since the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War.

Around 10,000 visitors crowded Pamplona’s main square for the opening of this year’s celebrations, City Hall said, with thousands more crowding side streets and other squares to watch the opening on giant screens.

“It’s absolutely crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said John Lupson, a 22-year-old Australian student who came to Spain for the festival.

“Everyone’s just having so much fun, everyone’s drinking so much alcohol, everyone’s on each other’s shoulders, screaming, yelling, singing.”

– Drinking 24/7 –

Many revelers started drinking early, sitting hours before the “chupinazo” on outdoor terraces or wandering Pamplona’s narrow, cobbled streets with large plastic bottles of sangria.

“It’s part of the city’s identity, so after two years we were keen to revisit it,” said David Navarras, a 27-year-old Spanish student.

Dating back to medieval times, the festival features concerts, religious processions, folk dancing and 24-hour drinking.

But the highlight is the daily grueling test of courage against a thundering pack of half-ton pointed-horned bulls.

Every day at 8:00 a.m., hundreds of daredevils with six fighting bulls race a 850-meter distance from a corral to Pamplona’s bullring, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

The bravest – or foolhardy – run as close to the bulls’ horns as possible, preferably without being gored.

The first bull run, which traditionally attracts the most participants, takes place on Thursday.

– ‘Mama is worried’ –

Eric Kline, a 23-year-old engineering graduate who traveled from the US city of Atlanta to attend the festival for the first time, said he plans to take part in Thursday’s run.

“I watched online videos of past runs to prepare. My mother is worried,” he said.

Dozens of people are injured each year, although most injuries are caused by runners falling or being trampled on by the cops. The last death was in 2009.

Local authorities have also stepped up their fight against sexual violence after the notorious gang rape of an 18-year-old woman by five young men at the 2016 festival in a case that shocked Spain.

The men were initially sentenced to nine years in prison on the lesser offense of sexual abuse, prompting widespread protests and calls for changes to Spain’s rape laws.

In 2019, the Supreme Court reversed the verdict, convicting all five of the rape and increasing the sentences to 15 years each.

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