The streets of the Biscayan capital, the large entrance avenues to the Bilbao Exhibition Center in Barakaldo, the nerve center of the logistics of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, are already dotted with arrows and indications that only the initiated know how to interpret. Write down one of them: “Carburant”, and the official vehicles know where to go to refuel. Only they and those who have the right to place the accreditation band on their windshield will be able to circulate on a network of roads that will be closed in the Basque Country during the three days in which the Big Boucle will run through their territory, and that they have been warning about it for several weeks.
The Tour is a mass of considerable dimensions, which is why the arrival of the first stage is next to the Etxebarria Park, one of the few spaces in Bilbao that can accommodate an assembly of this type. The Gran Via, the usual setting for the finish line in the Vuelta a Espana, is too small. Next to the Bilbao estuary, on the esplanade of the Guggenheim Museum, the operators of the race have been working since Monday to set up the stage for the presentation of the teams. Everything is almost ready in Bilbao, adorned with ikurrinas and posters, but there are still details to be arranged.
One of them, perhaps the most important, is the deployment of the Ertzaintza. The regional Police will be in charge of the entire security device until the race enters French territory, on Monday, July 3; but in this scenario, the police unions and an independent platform called “Ertzaintzas en lucha” continue to threaten to boycott the race. “Without a decent regulatory agreement, there is no Tour. You have no idea what is coming your way”, the agents threatened the Department of the Interior of the Basque Government a few days ago. On Friday, Josu Erkoreka, head of the Ministry, met with the unions, but no agreement was reached on the demands of a group that takes advantage of the loudspeaker to present its demands.
The Tour needs the mobilization of at least 1,500 police officers between July 1 and 3, and the unions assure that they cannot “guarantee the presence of so many troops.” There could be an avalanche of medical casualties that Erkoreka is trying to stop. “They have refused to talk about just one of the 37 improvements,” says the counselor; “They only wanted to deal with one issue, they were not interested in the others,” in reference to the linear salary increase, which he described as “illegal and unconstitutional.” From the leadership of the Ertzaintza they plan a general mobilization of all the operational agents to have room for manoeuvre.
It is not the only problem that the organization of the Tour has faced, which months ago requested thousands of volunteers to collaborate in surveillance tasks, especially at road junctions, and at the passage of the advertising caravan, through the campaign “Tour Laguna” (friend of the Tour). However, the appeal was not as successful as expected. In the first place, it was addressed to the Basque cycling clubs, so that they could invite their members, but they demanded compensation. “We do not receive public subsidies and they want us to collaborate for free,” they complained. Only at the last minute, the Guipuzcoan Cycling Federation, after obtaining several written commitments from the Provincial Council and the Basque Government to solve part of the economic problem of the race organizers, has called on its clubs to collaborate.
In Bizkaia, after a final campaign with banners placed in all the seats of San Mames during the last league game to ask for volunteers, the organization has had to resort to a temporary work company to cover numerous positions that, in principle, were they wanted to assign volunteers. At 10 euros an hour, for eight or ten hours the three days of the race and with an employment contract, the positions can be filled.
Meanwhile, preparations on other issues are advancing fast. In the three capitals, parking the vehicle will be an odyssey, because from Thursday to Monday parking will be prohibited in the streets where the race runs. Those same roads are adorned with yellow signs with the pun Ongi eTouri (something like “Welcome to the Tour”) and ikurrinas. In Berango, a town of 7,000 inhabitants, the City Council has mailed ikurrinas; Kutxabank has distributed them in its offices; and around 60,000 Basque flags are expected during the tour, some of them with protest slogans about the “right to decide”. Athletic, for its part, has urged its supporters to wear the red and white shirt. The first stage leaves from the gates of San Mames.
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Source: EL PAIS