Padel tournament at UNESCO World Heritage Site draws protests

Controversial plans have emerged for a ‘World Padel Tournament’ to take place in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Roman Amphitheatre of Merida, in Extremadura’s capital.

Many local neighbourhood associations, including the Confederation of Neighbourhoods Associations (CAVEX), are strongly opposed to the tournament, which is scheduled to take place between May 4-10.

The Roman Theatre, originally constructed in the first century BC, is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman sites in Spain. With a width of 86 metres, the 2,000-year-old theatre originally boasted a seating capacity of around 6,000.

The CAVEX has asked Extremadura officials to call off the tournament and has collected more than 60,000 signatures in opposition to the event, citing a lack of respect for Spain’s heritage and a possibility of damage occurring on the site.

The director of World Padel Tour, Javier Porras, said that tour has “no intention” of putting the UNESCO site in danger. So far the local government of Extremadura has continued to support the tournament taking place and has said it wouldn’t reverse its decision. CAVEX is now planning a protest march on March 28.

Padel, a racquet sport similar to tennis and invented in Mexico in 1969, has become hugely popular in Latin America, Spain and, increasingly in northern Europe. A demonstration of the sport’s growing popularity is the founding of the UK Padel Federation in 2011. 

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