Why the Mediterranean Games have failed in Tarragona

The Mediterranean Games in Tarragona are leading to a feeling of considerable organisational failure. The grandstands at sporting events are mostly empty and there have already been a few sketchy moments during the medal ceremonies due to logistical problems or, directly, the absence of authorities. In addition, the political conflict in Catalonia is casting a long shadow over the event, which does not attract any media interest given the timing of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A coincidence that should not have been, and which has ended up happening due to the lack of organisational provision that Spain has demonstrated in this case. Tarragona was chosen as the venue in 2013, in a close vote in which it won by 36 to 34 over Alexandria (Egypt). The event, which is held every four years, was to be held in 2017, precisely to avoid running into the Summer or Winter Olympic Games, World Cups or European Championships. But Spain failed to honour its commitment and did not arrive on time. Political instability was then blamed, with the country on the verge of a third election, to justify that the necessary games could not be unblocked and the Games had to be delayed by a year.

Politics and bad organizations

This is how the inaugural ceremony arrived, with the president of the Generalitat Quim Torra threatening to boycott the King, the grandstand divided between independence supporters and constitutionalists who whistled at each other as their names were heard over the loudspeakers and a picture of the sad Nou Estadi, with the stands half full and an amateur show on the grass.

The gala did not remind us of any of the major sporting events, and was not even comparable to those of Mersin 2013, Pescara 2009 or Almería 2005. As if this were not enough, the Socialist City Council and the Generalitat engaged in a dispute over the distribution of tickets and the «selection» of the public using political criteria. It was by no means the desired start for a competition that needs to be relaunched, reinvented or killed, especially with the threat of the newborn European Games, the second edition of which will be held in Minsk next year. For the time being, the Mediterranean Games are scheduled to be held in Oran (Algeria) in 2021, and there is still no venue for 2025.

Lack of fans in the stands

But if the gala was negative for the image of the Mediterranean Games, what followed was much worse. Both at the weekend and at the start of the race, the stands were empty, including the pool that saw the Spanish flag bearer Mireia Belmonte in action, who took two gold and two silver medals. Not to mention the gymnastics, handball and volleyball pavilions, for which the organisation of the Games has ended up distributing tickets to the local clubs.

Belmonte also starred in what has so far been the most grotesque image of the event. It took place this Monday, during the delivery of medals of the 400 free female, in which the Spanish was silver after the Italian Simona Quadarella and ahead of the Portuguese Diana Durães. The sportswomen waited for minutes for the ceremony to begin, getting desperate and even sitting on the podium. There was no authority to give them the pledges. It was Belmonte who, fed up with the situation, took the reins and handed over the medals personally.

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