Pamplona takes the bull-run by the horns with anti-slip paint

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The Independent Online

The authorities in Pamplona, home of the world's best known bull-running festival, will coat the city's streets with a revolutionary chemical to prevent people and animals skidding into a tangled heap at the fiesta in July.

The authorities in Pamplona, home of the world's best known bull-running festival, will coat the city's streets with a revolutionary chemical to prevent people and animals skidding into a tangled heap at the fiesta in July.

A non-abrasive chemical will be applied to the route along which the bulls run every morning for a week, from corrals to the bullring where they face death in the afternoon.

Hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts worldwide come to Pamplona to run with the bulls, in a perilous dash that produces spectacular pile-ups as men and beasts slide on the smooth surface. The scrums frequently produce injuries, sometimes death.

The anti-slip product, already tested by seasoned runners, will be applied to the central stretch of the route, which includes the notorious Mercaderes Curve - Pamplona's equivalent of Becher's Brook in the Grand National - when it takes a 90-degree turn.

"It is an acid that we use to wash the stone, which is not abrasive but augments the millions of micro-pores in the road surface," said Patxi Fernandez, the town hall's director of public protection. "The action of the wind makes it non-slip."

The biggest danger facing the densely packed, not always sober, runners, is when they slip and crash to the ground. Before the run, the streets are soaked by a powerful watercannon to cleanse Pamplona of the rubbish and body fluids produced by high-intensity 24-hour street partying.

Mr Fernandez says the wet conditions make the product "work even better, because it enters into the pores and grips even more." Neither the components nor the cost were revealed, but the product is said to be effective for months, even years. It has been piloted in streets, swimming pools and public buildings in several Spanish towns.

Miguel Leza, who has run with the bulls for 26 years, said: "It'll be better for the bulls than for the runners, because we have better balance and our legs don't slide so much."

The Mercaderes Curve is the bulls' most likely downfall. "They can't see the curve until they're upon it, and can't slow down. But when the bulls get up they'll find their feet and rejoin the herd more quickly."

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