Friday, February 16, 2007

Municipal Elections 2007….I Declare This Inauguration Season Officially Open

Elections can creep up on you a bit like the changes that occur between seasons; the first buds of spring, that slow rise in the temperatures. We are still more than three months away from the municipal elections that will take place near the end of May, but already there are clear signs that something is happening. One of the signals that we are already unofficially in campaign is the disappearance of many of the fences and trenches that have now become as much a part of the Madrid landscape as the Puerta del Sol. This then allows Madrid’s mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, to preside over an inauguration ceremony to show how his huge program of construction projects has transformed the city, and how grateful we should all be to live in such beautiful surroundings and have some of the newest traffic tunnels in the world.

Let's hope they didn't forget the roof supports....

The characteristic feature of this hectic round of inaugurations is that most of the projects being inaugurated are not actually in a fit state to be used in any way. We were given a classic example of this last week with the opening of one of the new tunnels in the massive project to bury part of the M-30 ring road in Madrid. There was only one small problem; the tunnel in question was not actually ready to be used, there were some small details still to be resolved such as emergency exits etc. A representative of the mayor assured the press that this was not really the opening ceremony; they were just “putting the tunnel into operation”. Later, there would be another inauguration ceremony. These were not very well chosen words, because not long after the rain falling in Madrid that day put the tunnel definitively out of operation; it seems that drainage was one of those small details that still had not been attended to.

The pioneer of this custom of inaugurating unfinished infrastructure projects was José Maria Aznar. Prior to the elections in 2004, there was a constant stream of images of Aznar inaugurating one project after another. Some of these projects, notably the new terminal building at Madrid airport, were probably much nearer the beginning than the end of construction; for a while it seemed that all you needed was someone to be digging a hole in a field for yet another photo opportunity to be arranged. We have many more to come in Madrid in the next 3 months.

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