Madrid to host charity bullfight for matadors left jobless by COVID-19


FILE PHOTO: Spanish bullfighter Octavio Chacon performs a pass to a bull during the last bullfight of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, July 14, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Crowds will return to Madrid's Las Ventas bullring for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic next month for a charity bullfight to raise money for matadors left jobless by COVID-19, officials said on Saturday.

Almost all of Spain's bullrings, or plazas, have remained closed for the last year due to lockdown restrictions - plunging the controversial spectacle and its matadors into financial crisis.

A maximum of 6,000 people will be allowed in to watch the May 2 bullfight, Madrid's regional government said. That is equivalent to 40% capacity as the arena, considered the world's most important bullring by fans.

Face masks will be mandatory and strict social distancing measures will be in place at the event.

Major bullfighting festivals such as San Isidro, Sevilla's April Fair, and Pamplona's San Fermin in July were cancelled last year, with bulls being sent from ranches straight to the slaughterhouse.

But even before lockdown bans brought bullfighting to a virtual standstill, the traditional emblem of Spanish culture had been struggling for survival in recent years.

Attitudes towards bullfighting differ among Spaniards with some considering it an essential part of the culture while others say it is a cruel spectacle.

A 2019 poll for El Español, an online newspaper, found 56.4% of Spaniards opposed bullfighting, while 24.7% supported it and 18.9% were indifferent.

In recent years, local governments have cut funding for fiestas, left-wing politicians oppose it, and a highly vocal anti-bullfight movement has grabbed headlines.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Helen Popper)

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