April 18, 2011

Marathon vs Palm Sunday procession in Madrid

Procesion de la SoledadMadrid marathon

On the same day of the more famous London one, the Madrid marathon was run last Sunday. It’s a tough, slow one, due to the mix of elevation, up- and down-hills, and heat – even if this time the temperature was perfect, allowing a Madrid record of 2h10 under a beautiful sun (so different from Berlin). According to a friend who run it, Spanish disorganisation was also visible, for instance in the shortage of all kinds of facilities and information. Exactly this week there was much talk in the Spanish media about the latest OECD report on working time, suggesting that Spaniards work very long hours, but in a disorganised and unproductive way.

Yet the most amusing aspect of disorganisation was that only the day beforethe marathon organisers realised that the route was clashing, on its most spectacular point (the Napoleonic Plaza de Oriente beside the Royal Palace) with the procession of Palm Sunday. The clash was resolved to the advantage of the Church: the procession stayed and the runners had to bypass the square through a tunnel, which involved the need for a reclassification of the marathon due to an added 71cm. It would have been even more fun if organisers hadn’t realised it at all: the procession and the marathon would have physically clashed in a symbolic representation of the war between Church and laicism, that has characterised Spain more than maybe any other country in the last century. The big processions will be on Good Thursday and on Good Friday, and an “anti-procession” had been planned for Thursday by atheist organisations. But it has not been allowed: again a victory for the Church, but maybe a wise decision, not to create a precedent for potential anti-Muslim processions by xenophobes in the future.

However, the big clash everybody speaks about in Madrid is neither the Marathon nor religion, but the unprecedented 4-times Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, in Liga (1-1 on Saturday), Copa del Rey final (Wednesday) and Champions League semi-finals (after Easter). If the unitary Spanish state survives this it will not collapse any time soon.

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