Intermittent traffic cuts and more fewer cars than usual, police sirens routinely at the passage of each delegation and some other curious in the vicinity of the hotels where the world political representatives will stay. This has been the arrival of the delegations attending the NATO summit in Madrid, which is already being noticed in a center of the Spanish capital, in which it is rare to take two steps and not come across a police patrol or agent.
The people of Madrid have opted this Tuesday for teleworking or using public transport to try to avoid the impact on the eve of the Summit in their daily lives and for the moment it has been achieved: the city seems far from “collapsing”.
During this day, most of the delegations have arrived at the airport throughout the day and have gone to their hotels, many of them on the Paseo de la Castellana, where this Tuesday an unusual image is seen in one of the main arteries of the capital: little traffic noise, hardly any people and total calm, with strong security measures.
“Everything is quite normalized. They cut punctually each time each procession passes, but it’s a matter of two minutes,” says Verónica Moledo, manager of the La Mamona restaurant, right in front of the Intercontinental Hotel, where Joe Biden is staying.
“People leave their homes with more time to arrive, but no one has been late. So far we have not had a problem“, Adds Moledo.
“The city has no activity”
Like her, the same situation is reproduced meters below the Castellana, right at the intersection with López de Hoyos. In the La Gaditana restaurant they have not had “any setback” beyond having “fewer reservations”, they confess, while the police keep the central lanes of the street closed, but have left the sides open.
With half-empty terraces and few people walking the streets, the lack of influx of customers has caused some restaurants and businesses to close early.
“As there are no people or movement, it is not worth being open”says Hugo Simañana, owner of a flower shop right behind the Intercontinental Hotel.
Others, like La Mamona, have more reservations for the night, especially from American clients who are part of Biden’s entourage, says their manager. But as far as the residents of the city are concerned, it seems that they have stayed at home and have heeded the recommendations to avoid the most critical areas.
“The city has no activity, basically it’s people walking around, doing four little things and little else”says Ángel, a taxi driver who has been touring and dodging some blocked streets in Madrid all day.
“At 8 in the morning, when I started, I was surprised that there was no traffic, but nothing is zero,” says the taxi driver about an unusual image in the Madrid capital on a daily rush hour.
“The people of Madrid are not moving for what has been said that they should not take the vehicle and do telecommuting, and that shows,” he concludes.
More problems in the Plaza Mayor and Royal Palace
Something different is the image that can be seen right in the center of Madrid, where many tourists have come across the cuts without apparently expecting it. In the Plaza Mayor, the hoteliers have had to clear their terraces at five in the afternoon and the police have evacuated a large part of the area, since it has been used as a parking lot for the delegations during dinner at the Royal Palace.
“We are going to leave the bar and restaurant open for the diplomat who wants to come”says the owner of the El Soportal bar as he picks up the terrace he has in the Plaza Mayor.
To access one of the most famous squares in the city, at every step you take there is a National Police van or foot patrols. In fact, tourists who have their accommodation can only access it accompanied by a police officer.
A similar situation is seen in the vicinity of the Plaza de Oriente. With the Royal Palace in the background, snipers on the rooftops and police vans blocking every access, you can only go around the outside, while the Palace hosts the welcome dinner.
“We can keep the terrace, but reduced and without going to the square,” says a waitress at the Café de Oriente.
As in the rest of the capital, there the hoteliers and citizens assume “with resignation” the occasional outages and inconvenience caused, because in the end, as they say, “It is what it is, it is three days and there is no need to be alarmed”.