WATCH: Man injured in Spain’s ‘Running of the Balls’ fiesta was the mayor who tried to make it safer

It may seem like a less dangerous pursuit than being chased through narrow cobbled streets by a pack of half-tonne angry bulls, but Spain's 'boloencierro' run has once again claimed a victim and the irony of the situation has not been lost on anyone.

WATCH: Man injured in Spain's 'Running of the Balls' fiesta was the mayor who tried to make it safer
Archive photo of the 'boloencierro' before new safety measures were introduced. : Mataelpino Town Hall

Mataelpino, a town of 1,800 inhabitants in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama. has become infamous as the Madrid municipality which introduced a ‘cruelty-free' alternative to bull running that has grown in popularity since being introduced eight years ago.

However, a spate of injuries caused by a giant rolling sphere in recent years led to a move by the town council to replace the heavy ball with a lighter version.

So this year, the 250kg ball was replaced with an inflatable orb weighing in at just 30kg, and yet still someone got hurt: the mayor himself.

As the ball picked up speed rolling down the town’s main street on Sunday, chasing dozens of runners and overlooked by spectators, it bounced off an open door and lurched to the side, knocking a participant to the ground.  

That man turned out to be Javier de los Nietos, the mayor of the town and the one responsible for measures designed to reduce casualties during the annual festival.

The mayor reportedly suffered a cracked collarbone.

A twitter user posted a video of the incident along with the comment: “This year the Mayor decided to reduce the weight of the ball from 200 to 30kgs after the accidents of years past. Thanks to this measure, someone broke their collarbone. That someone was the mayor himself. I love Spain.”


Last year a 29-year-old man suffered severe head trauma after being knocked by the 250kg polystyrene ball against the door of the local bull ring.

In 2017, another participant was left in a coma after being thwacked round the head by the giant rolling ball and another was hospitalized with three broken ribs.

“We are going to review all of our security measures and boost the information given out because people have started coming here from all over the world,” Mataelpino mayor Javier Pérez de los Nietos told El Pais at the time. 

“We don't want this to become a tragic event, but rather something fun.”

“People who are used to bulls know that they can't just stand still in front of them because they could be gored. But with the ball some people think that nothing will happen to them, but this is not the case. If they get a direct hit, it can be serious,” 

In years past the spheres were huge 250kg polystyrene balls coated with a thick layer of resin and then painted with images of bulls but this year an inflatable version was used.

Participants were also required to wear crash helmets to join the run.

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PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever

With the news last week that the Spanish city of Pamplona in Navarra has been forced to cancel its bull running fiesta for the second year running due to the Covid crisis, animal rights activists have seized on the opportunity to call for it to be banned permanently.

PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever
A shot from the encierro on July 7th 2019. Photo: AFP

PETA are writing to the mayor of Pamplona with the offer of €298,000 if the Navarran city ceases the use of bulls during their fiesta altogether.

“People around the world, including in Spain, say it’s past time the torment and slaughter of animals for human entertainment were stopped,” says PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in her appeal to Pamplona mayor, Enrique Maya.

“Now is the moment to be on the right side of history. We hope you will accept our offer and allow Pamplona to reinvent itself for the enjoyment of all.”

Each morning during the eight day festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, which bursts into celebration at midday on July 6th, six fighting bulls and six steers are released to run through the narrow streets of the old town to the bullring where the bulls are killed in the evening corridas.

Hundreds run alongside the animals in the morning dash which often results in gorings, and injuries from being stomped on after runners lose their footing in the crowds.

The festival, which was made world famous by Ernest Hemingway, who set his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” during San Fermin, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the party each year.

The festival, which sees Pamplona’s population swell from just under 200,000 to more than a million, is estimated to bring an annual boost of €74 million to Pamplona businesses, according to an association of fighting bull breeders.

PETA’s offer is the latest in a long campaign to ban what it calls “Pamplona’s annual bloodbath”.

Together with Spanish groupAnimaNaturalis, the activists stage peaceful protests ahead of the start of the festival year.

The city’s former mayor, Joseba Asirón, supported the protests, describing them as “fair and honest”.

Speaking to reporters about the groups’ calls to remove bull runs from the festival, he said, “[T]his is a debate that sooner or later we will have to put on the table. For a very simple reason, and that is that basing the festival on the suffering of a living being, in the 21st century, is something that, at best, we have to rethink.”

Since the pandemic began festivals across Spain have been cancelled but corridas were allowed last summer with limited occupancy and with social distancing and Covid-19 measures in place.

But although Spain’s bullfighting lobby is strong, there is a general trend away from it.

In a poll published in 2019 by online newspaper El Español, over 56 percent of Spaniards said they were against bullfighting, while only 24.7 were in favour. Some 18.9 percent said they were indifferent.

Support was significantly higher among conservative voters, it showed.