Catalan President, Quim Torra, will attend the opening ceremony of the Mediterranean Games in Tarragona on Friday, despite the presence of the king of Spain.
The pro-independence leader considered avoiding the event after his petition to meet with the monarch to discuss the political situation was rejected.
“I will be there today, these Games are in Tarragona, in Catalonia, and have been organized and paid for in our country,” said Torra in a press conference. “It’s our home, they won’t push the president and the government of the country out of our home.”
Torra said King Felipe VI should meet with him to learn about the political situation in Catalonia and to “apologise” for not condemning police violence against independence supporters during last October’s referendum, which Spain deemed illegal.
The president said that if the Spanish king “is willing to inaugurate the Games in Tarragona, he should also show the responsibility to listen to what a good number of citizens think and to respect the opinion of Catalans.”
In a joint letter also signed by Torra’s predecessors—including Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in Germany awaiting a decision on his extradition to Spain—the Catalan president offered to meet with Felipe, but the monarch forwarded the request to Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the petition was turned down.
Teresa Cunillera, the Sánchez government’s most senior representative in Catalonia, said the event’s inauguration would be Torra’s “first occasion to show institutional respect” since he was elected as head of the Catalan government a month ago.
The main opposition party in Catalonia, unionist Ciutadans (Cs), accused the Catalan government of disrespecting the king and only being president “to pro-independence Catalans.”
A highly unpopular figure in Catalonia, a recent survey by the Center of Opinion Studies (CEO) found that almost 80% of Catalans disapprove of King Felipe. On a scale of 10, some 60% of those surveyed gave him a 0.
Local authorities in dozens of Catalan towns have declared the king persona non grata, and the northern city of Girona even rejected hosting an awards ceremony linked to the crown for the first time ever.
Other controversies involving the king in recent months include the seizing of whistles in the Copa del Rey football final in Madrid to avoid him being booed, and Catalans protesting his arrival at the Mobile World Congress with the anthem of the Spanish Republic.
The start on June 22 and will run until July 1. Taking place every four years, this edition will feature 33 different sporting competitions and some 4,000 athletes from 26 different countries.