Go outside! Get some fresh air! Do some exercise! This is the advice many of us are used to hearing from the government … not so in Bucharest.
The city’s new mayor, Gabriela Firea, is looking to rein in road closures that see large swathes of streets in the Romanian capital shut to traffic in aid of outdoor events.
One such event is Via Sport, where a 750-metre stretch of the Kiseleff highway becomes pedestrianised from 10pm on Friday until 2pm on Sunday, to create a safe space for recreation and sports.
“The reason we are doing this in the street in the summer and at the weekend is to encourage people to leave their cars, take their bicycles, walk with their kids, play games, and have fun,” Alex Zamfir, one of the co-founders of Via Sport, stated.
The event organisers reportedly received a letter from local authorities, informing them that Via Sport cannot take place due to “road upkeep” over the next four months. In the context of recent comments from the mayor, this claim seemed more than a little suspicious.
“Just this weekend, the traffic in the capital was blocked and not because there were too many cars — but because there are many street events approved in downtown Bucharest, whether cultural, entertainment or sports, and this doesn’t happen in any [other] European capital,” said Ms Firea in conversation with a Romanian news channel last month.
Her comments have already sparked criticism among those who believe in the importance of events like Via Sport.
“If this is permanent I think it is a backward step for Bucharest,” said Ciprian Salceanu, a software programmer who frequents Via Sport.
“It is a vibrant city, and a city that is working. It is active, it is not asleep anymore. Culture is part of that,” says Raluca Ciuta, who manages Bucharest’s bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2021, highlighting the importance of such events.
A variety of rumours relating to the controversy have appeared in local and social media, including the suggestion that Ms Firea is targeting Via Sport in particular because her party’s headquarters are located close to where it takes place.
Although a number of other locations have been offered to organisers, on Thursday 28 July around 70 dissatisfied fans of Via Sport gathered to create a sports flashmob outside Bucharest city hall in protest of the decision. At present, Via Sport is the only event to have been affected, but there are fears than bans will spread to other street events and festivals.
Source: The Guardian