Running of the bulls blasts off

2012-07-06 16:01

Pamplona - Tens of thousands of revellers showered each other with sparkling wine and waved red kerchiefs on Friday as the blast of a small rocket signalled the start of this year's running of the bulls.

Spain's most famous summer festival kicked off in the jam-packed and cobblestoned main square of the northern town of Pamplona.

People from around the world, many wearing the traditional red kerchief and white shirt and pants, roared their approval as an official on a city hall balcony declared the San Fermin festival under way. He then lit the rocket, its boom echoing through the plaza.

Revellers sprayed each other with white wine, water and other liquids, and pelted each other with flour, making for a pasty but merry mess. Huge plastic balls used to advertise products and services bounced atop the crowd.

"It looked like a giant food fight," said Andrea Smith, aged 33, a member of the US military stationed in Italy. A native of Coxsackie, New York, she had come to Pamplona on leave just to watch all the fun — not to test her luck with the 500-plus kilogram beasts that are the stars of the show.

Lindsay Erdall, a 25-year-old nurse from Montana, called the opening the party "the craziest thing I have ever seen".

15 killed since 1924

"I have been here for the setup, and now that it has started it is amazing. Not sure I will run because it is way too crowded," she said.

The first of eight runs in which daredevils dash through the streets with six powerful fighting bulls begins on Saturday.

The bulls thunder along with six bell-tinkling steers meant to keep the bulls running in a pack, making the run allegedly safer. An isolated bull can get spooked and disoriented, becoming much more likely to charge at people.

Since record keeping began in 1924, 15 people have been killed by bulls in the early morning festival runs. The most recent such tragedy came in 2009 when a young Spaniard was gored in the neck as he tried to escape a bull by sliding feet-first under a fence separating the course from the crowd watching the run. It was the first death at San Fermin in nearly 15 years.

The party allegedly honouring San Fermin, the patron saint of Pamplona, was immortalised in Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises.

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-07-06 16:21

    looks like a lot of fun but also unnecessary risk of you ask me

  • joanne.fairbrother - 2012-07-06 16:57

    I'm suprised News24 haven't reported on the darker side of this festival, especially since there is widespread criticism of it. This may look like fun for people, but this causes a lot of unnecessary cruelty for the bulls involved. To start with they are kept in dark and crowded enclosures, and are suddenly released. Blinded by the sunlight, they are prodded with electric shocks which cases widespread panic ensuring they run. Apart from the tail twisting and taunting from the crowds, the animals are not accustomed to the narrow streets and sharp corners of the run. They often loose footing, injuring themselves and breaking bones. To finish it off, all of these bulls end up with nasty bloody death in the bull ring. It doesn't sound like much fun to me. It's time to do away with these "traditions" and look at more compassionate alternatives. The Running of the Nudes is a great example of this >

  • jean.tredoux.5 - 2012-07-06 17:37

    Hoping a few heads will be crushed by this cruel tradition...

  • ervin.sarkisov - 2012-07-06 20:39

    More images of San Fermin Running of the Bulls Festival

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