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The Orihuela Costa became a blaze of the shimmering glow of colour that emanated from the illuminated decorations of Christmas on Friday, as the official start of the festive season was launched with the traditional switching on of the lights ceremony.

At 6pm, the switch-on was made, with local schoolgirl Rihanna chosen to press the magic button, all in the presence of the attending councillors, Carolina Gracia and Emilio Zaplana from the PSOE who came from Orihuela city, Bob Houliston from CLARO, and of course Martina Scheurer representing the Los Verdes green party of Orihuela, the Councillor for the Coast, who presided over the event.

The music was provided first by the Orihuela Costa Civic Centre Choir, followed by the children from the Los Dolces School in Playa Flamenca, then the children from the Scandinavian School, finally wrapped up by a chorus of individual and guitar backed singers from the Civic Centre.

However, the evening turned altogether a little darker as an unofficial protest swamped the scene, with around 150 people, some wielding banners, targeted the event to raise awareness of their campaign to have a football field for the local children.

The town hall had become aware of the possible protest earlier in the week, a protest which was neither correctly applied for nor approved according to sources at the town hall, in fact, the protest was scheduled to start at 7pm, according to the organisers, who had and also promised not to bring the protest signs to the town hall.

The reason for their frustration followed a visit from inspectors from the town hall, accompanied by the police, to two municipal sports fields on the Orihuela Costa, one of which had already been fenced off, the other which was in the process of being enclosed, but that was stopped by the inspector from the urbanism department.

It is believed that the organisers of the local football team had become increasingly frustrated by the fact that the CDM municipal sports centre has to be paid for to use, as they have been operated by a private company since they were opened under the control of the previous government. With the cost of membership seemingly too much for many of those children wishing to attend the club´s functions, calls to obtain family discounts, or financial help for those who struggle, were seemingly not being heard.

As a result of their need for a dedicated sports pitch, the club organisers took it upon themselves to commandeer the municipal plots for their use, action which was blocked by the town hall as these plots belong to the municipality and are for the use of all.

Having been apparently “kicked out” from using the municipal sports fields, claims were made that the children were now being forced to travel to neighbouring Pilar de la Horadada to use their facilities, despite the fact that Orihuela has a suitable site, it is considered to be far cheaper for those children wishing to play football to be transported out of the municipality, it would appear.

Unlike in Orihuela City, where a sports filed had been made available to the team there for free, it was not the case on the Orihuela Costa. A meeting was held earlier this week with the Councillor for the Coast, in an attempt to try to find a common solution to the problem.

Although there is no doubt that most people would support the creation and availability of sports centres and clubs for young people to use, many of the people attending the Christmas event were both shocked and disappointed by the few protestors who entered the area where the celebrations were taking place.

Amongst the many comments heard from those not happy about the protest, one audience member said, “It´s disgusting, we can´t hear the children singing over the noise”, another saying, “this is so wrong, we´re here for the children”. A parent who didn´t want to be named said, “My daughter had been looking forward to this for weeks. She was excited, but very nervous, now it´s ruined for her”. Though many tried to ignore those protestors who started to block the view with their banners, the police tried to ask them to refrain from doing so, though an apparent lack of respect for their requests was clear, as the protestors simply lifted their banners once more, even forcing some people to leave early, one of those who did leave commenting, “What sort of message does this give to children? It´s okay to disturb everybody else without thinking about their feelings! How about teaching a bit of respect for others!”

Bob Houliston from CLARO said, “Of course we support the protest, in fact we agreed to go along with them, although they said they were starting at 7, but must have decided to start early”. But when faced with the comments of the disappointment felt by some of those attending, Houliston made it clear that “it´s not our protest”.

The Councillor for the Coast, Martina Scheurer said, “The lightning of the Christmas illuminations this year was a great success with far more participants than last year. I would like to give my thanks especially to the children of the Los Dolses Colegio situated in Playa Flamenca as well as from the Scandinavian school. I also would like to thank the participants of the demonstration who acted quietly and so respecting the singers of all ages and nationalities which volunteered at the act, especially the children”.

In response to the disturbances caused, Scheurer said, “Although I do agree with the request of a free football field for all our youngsters, I think there is a place and a time for everything and the children should not have been used for the demonstration on that particular day and event”, concluding, “I wonder what would have been the reaction of the protesting parents if it would have been their children singing there….”

As the disappointment caused by some may paint another black mark on the attempts to hold an event that the entire coastal zone could get involved in, the Orihuela Costa is now illuminated with Christmas lights and a tree. Although the number of lights was the same as last year, effort was made to try to bring them together to provide more dramatic coverage than the sometimes seemingly isolated lights seen before. The tree was relocated to the town hall this year, so that it could be appreciated on a more regular basis by the many people who pass through the area each day. As was the case with the position last year, the tree was still a focal point for passing traffic on the N-332 coastal road, highlighting the heart of the Orihuela Costa community.

In addition to the lights, the streets of the coast have also been dressed in flowers, including the traditional poinsettia, many of which have been cultivated and grown in the Orihuela Costa´s very own horticultural centre, thus saving money spent in previous years on having to buy the plants from outside contractors.

As the evening drew to a close, those who took part in the illuminating event were treated to seasonal refreshments in the shape of Christmas biscuits, Cava and Muscatel, all generously paid for out of the personal pocket of the councillor for the coast, Martina Scheurer.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45835/

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