Photo: San Fermin festival
Thousands of people turned out Sunday in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona to celebrate the start of the San Fermin festival, known around the world for its daily running of the bulls.
The city’s Red Cross director fired the traditional “chupinazo” rocket before a large crowd at noon to officially mark the start of the festival, which runs until July 14.
The Red Cross official was given the honor because the humanitarian organization is celebrating its 150th anniversary of operations in Spain this year.
Thousands of people packed into the plaza in front of city hall and adjacent streets to watch the ceremony.
The downpours that have hit the area in recent days and forced the evacuation of towns in the Navarre region, whose capital is Pamplona, stopped about 15 minutes before the festival’s official start.
The Pamplona municipal government plans to spend nearly 1 million euros ($1.35 million) on the festival this year, with some 443 events planned.
Concerts, dances, games for children, fireworks, religious processions and parades are among the events planned for the enjoyment of visitors.
The San Fermin festival, however, is best known for its eight bull runs, which take place each morning beginning at 8:00 a.m. from July 7 until July 14.
The run through the medieval streets of Pamplona’s historic center, usually lasting four minutes, is especially dangerous because some runners take part in the event after all-night drinking binges.
This makes runners reckless and more likely to get too close to the bulls, which weigh in excess of 500 kilos (1,100 pounds).
The running of the bulls is monitored by experts who control the route and try to prevent accidents, but, inevitably, runners fall, suffer cuts and bruises, and are even gored by the animals.
About 3,350 police officers from different departments are being deployed at the festival to maintain order and fight crime.
Officials are cracking down this year on abuse toward women after incidents of groping in the crowds made headlines in previous years.
The incidents created “a negative image of the city,” Pamplona Mayor Enrique Maya said.
City officials have issued press credentials to 2,017 reporters, photographers and other members of the media, or about 100 more than last year.
Media outlets from about 20 countries, including the United States, France, Japan, Britain, Qatar, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey and Uruguay, are covering the festival.
The San Fermin festival, whose current mix of street revelry and religion dates to 1590, was popularized by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.”