Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [TIME]

Southern Europe: Roman amphitheatre to be used as tennis court
In Mérida’s Roman amphitheatre, built about 8BC, one cannot smoke or wear a rucksack larger than 40cm. But in early May, the UNESCO world heritage site will be transformed into a padel tennis court, hosting competitors during the World Padel Tour as they volley balls at each other at breakneck speeds. The goal is to combine padel tennis, one of Spain’s most popular outdoor sports, with the rich roman history of Mérida,in the Spanish region of Extremadura. But the idea has provoked widespread opposition.

Roman amphitheatre to be used as tennis court
The amphitheatre in Merida is to be used for the padel tennis tour 
[Credit: France Lacoursiere/Historvius]

Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online petition attacking the idea. Authorities insist the project poses no risk to the monument, said Joaquin Paredes, the creator of the petition. “How can it be that the transfer and installation of courts and bleachers as well as allowing access to thousands of people won’t have any effect on a monument that’s more than 2,000 years old?”

Local groups have also taken aim. Cavex, the umbrella group of neighbours associations in Extremadura, conveyed its “absolute rejection” of the idea in a statement. “It’s a total lack of respect for one of our most emblematic monuments,” the group said. “Mérida has much more appropriate spaces for padel tennis.”

Others have backed the idea, arguing that Mérida is far from pioneering the use of ruins to host large events. As Damián Beneyto, a politician representing regional political parties, pointed out on Twitter: “The bullring in Nimes is a roman coliseum and its conservation hasn’t been compromised.”

Despite the outcry, the People’s party politician who heads Extremadura has held firm to the idea. On Monday, José Antonio Monago told journalists that if there had been any concerns about risk to the monument, city officials would have never allowed the proposal to go forward.

He pointed to Verona, home to one of the world’s largest Roman amphitheatres – which has at times been converted into an ice rink. Mérida itself stages a large theatre festival each year in the amphitheatre, he added. “At one time they put cranes and vehicles in the Roman theatre. Nobody gathered signatures or spoke out.”

Author: Ashifa Kassam | Source: The Guardian [March 27, 2015]