Bull running is a highly controversial practice in Spain, which is often denounced by animal rights and welfare campaigners. As an animal-friendly alternative, authorities in the town of Mataelpino, near Madrid, replaced the bull with a resin ball, decorated with the face of an angry bull. Unfortunately, rolling such a huge resin ball down a hill towards people isn’t a particularly safe activity either.
This is the unfortunate moment a Spanish town's pledge against using bulls for entertainment backfired for one very unlucky spectator.
For the last seven years, Mataelpino in Madrid has used giant 'snowballs' instead of bulls as part of a festival watched by thousands of people.
The giant white balls are used in the event known as the 'boloencierro' ('Running of the balls') and can hurtle down roads as fast as a bull can run but are not supposed to cause the same sort of carnage or cruelty.
However, weighing in at 300 kilos, the same size as a small bull, they can still pack quite a bunch as this viral video shows.
The giant ball is seen careering down the street packed with 'runners' who manage to get out of the way as it smashes into the barriers.
But the 'bolo' then shoots off course and smashes straight into the young man wearing the white top who is literally flattened by the impact. He is immediately knocked unconscious as he smashes onto the concrete.
He was seriously injured and was rushed to hospital with a head injury. Doctors said he had a clot on the brain and underwent emergency surgery. It is understood he is still in an induced coma but is out of danger.
Earlier, another runner suffered three broken ribs when the ball hit him.
The local council says it will now review the security of the annual event which was introduced with the best of intentions.
Whilst other parts of Spains still use bulls for their runs, Mataelpino introduced the white synthetic balls instead, three metres wide. They are capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 kilometres an hour on sloping parts of the 700 metre route.
The local Mayor, Javier de los Nietos said the annual event had become increasingly popular and this year attracted 700 competitors.
'It is a spectacle offering something different from the bulls as well as cheaper, in which a very large ball is used. It's a big ball and you have to have the same precautions as any other risky activity, ' he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
One of the ideas being suggested is to put padding on the curves of the route and the council will be looking at the design of the barriers, possibly adding a second layer for greater protection.
It is felt the danger zones are only in the curved areas.
In an official statement, Mataelpino council said the two accidents happened during the San Bartolomé fiestas.
The first person injured was discharged from hospital after 24 hours but the man in the video was still in intensive care with prognosis reserved. After his first operation, however, he was described as stable.
The council said many people had been asking about him and conveyed their best wishes to him and his family following the accident and they were in constant contact.
Meantime, Mataelpino's alternative idea to using live bulls is being adopted by other parts of Spain though perhaps with balls which weigh slightly less.
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