16th July 2024
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Formula 1 showcase in central Barcelona, amid protests from environmental groups

Formula 1 cars took over the centre of Barcelona on Wednesday afternoon with a showcase on the iconic Passeig de Gràcia boulevard, amid protests from environmentalists and neighbourhood groups.

Around 30,000 fans packed the streets to see Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan among many others taking laps around the Catalan capital. 

Amid the afternoon’s excitement, however, was an environmental and neighbourhood protest, with some unhappy about the city centre being shut down for an event that is part of a global motor sport that contributes to pollution to the atmosphere.

The showcased kicked off at 6pm on one of the most famous streets in the world, adorned by landmarks from architect Antoni Gaudí as a backdrop.

Wednesday’s show was the first time that F1 cars had been driven in the city centre, organisers from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya said. They drove in a circular track from Ronda Universitat Street to Aragó Street through the Passeig de Gràcia boulevard. There was also a ‘Fan Village’ set up in the main Plaza de Catalunya, and which will remain open until 22 June.

However, some 400 climate activists protested against the event. They are against the pollution and noise caused by Formula 1 and what they called the ‘elitist’ nature of the event. 

The protest began at the same time as the road show kicked off, at the intersection of Aragó and Balmes streets.

‘We say no to an urban model based on large-scale events that privatise public spaces, where public money is spent for the benefit of big tourism lobbies,’ said Jordi Elgström, from the Eixample Respira platform.

They also criticised that the show has the support of the Catalan government and the city council, and protesters blocked Carrer Aragó. Residents and protest organisations said the city ‘is not for sale’ for major events promoted by the local council.

Barcelona City Council defended the roadshow, saying it was ‘perfectly compatible’ with the council’s ‘firm compromise’ to ‘continue to reduce traffic, CO2 and noise pollution’. 

The council said that it was a ‘temporary and exceptional’ event and said that it gave Barcelona and Catalonia an ‘international projection’.

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