EXCLUSIVE: ‘Tourism has gone too far’ – hundreds of protestors target F1 roadshow in Barcelona city centre ahead of Spanish Grand Prix

HUNDREDS of protestors attempted to disrupt a Formula One roadshow in Barcelona on Wednesday afternoon ahead of this weekend’s F1 Spanish Grand Prix.

Tens of thousands of fans lined Passeig de Gracia, one of Barcelona’s most famous boulevards, to catch a glimpse of drivers including Carlos Sainz and Jack Doohan as they drove up and down the street as part of promotional activity for Sunday’s hotly-anticipated Grand Prix.

READ MORE: F1 row in Spain: Environmentalists blast plans to parade sports cars through the streets of Barcelona ahead of Grand Prix in June

Carlos Sainz delighted tens of thousands of fans by driving up and down Passeig de Gracia. He even performed donuts on the street. Credit: Cordon Press

The bustling thoroughfare, normally known for its array of designer shops and Antonio Guadi designed buildings, including Casa Batllo, was converted into a cauldron of noise as the blistering sound of the V6 Hybrid engines echoed around the city centre.

Some even took to climbing trees, road signs and adjacent buildings to grab a view of the cars.

Fans took to climbing buildings in order to gain a sight of the action. Copyright: Olive Press/Ben Pawlowski

However, on a nearby street, hundreds of protestors from a range of anti-tourist, environmentalist and left-wing groups gathered to rail against the roadshow.

Attendees chanted that ‘Barcelona is not for sale’, held signs aloft that said ‘Tourists go home’ and ‘F1 F Off’, and waved flags belonging to the Communist Party and the CUP, a far-left separatist party which won seats in last month’s Catalan regional elections.

Hundreds of protestors gathered to criticise the roadshow. Copyright: Olive Press/Ben Pawlowski

Several members of the protest took to a makeshift stage to address the crowds, who whistled and jeered everytime the scream of the F1 engines could be heard in the distance.

The group of protestors included members of Eixample Respire, an activist group which campaigns for the improvement of air quality in the Eixample neighbourhood of Barcelona.

The group were met by dozens of masked and armed police officers. Copyright: Olive Press/Ben Pawlowski

Prior to the event, the group said: “We are suffering from a public health crisis caused by poor air quality and noise. It is absurd to consider an F1 exhibition in the urban centre where thousands of people live, many of them particularly vulnerable to the effects of pollution”.

Jorgi Elgstrom, spokesperson for Eixample Respira, told reporters: “We say no to an urban model based on large-scale events that privatise public spaces, where public money is spent for the benefit of big tourism lobbies”.

Protestors held a banner saying: ‘Barcelona is not for sale’. Copyright: Olive Press/Ben Pawlowski

One protestor, who gave his name as Alex, told the Olive Press that he was angry at the ‘massification of tourism’ which forces ‘many young people to emigrate from the city centre to the suburbs and nearby towns because of the cost of living and housing’.

The 35-year old said: “It is not that we are against tourism, but we are against the massification of tourism which we believe has gone too far. We want to fight against the idea that Barcelona is only a city for large-scale events. The people of Barcelona, like any city in the UK or elsewhere, have the right to live peacefully in their own city”.


He added: “What the Generalitat [the local government] need to do is stop promoting the brand of Barcelona – instead they need to promote the neighbourhoods, the people and the social life. We do not need our city to be advertised more, what we need is a better quality of life, decent wages and, above all, an affordable city to live in. We need sustainable tourism”.

The protest was unable to reach the main boulevard thanks to half a dozen police vans which were parked tactically to block the road.

Angry locals had designed makeshift signs, including this one. Copyright: Olive Press/Ben Pawlowski

Tens of masked officers from the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalunya’s police force, supervised the protest, some armed with assault rifles.

In response, Barcelona mayor Jaume Collboni insisted that the event was ‘perfectly compatible’ with his ‘firm compromise to continue to reduce traffic, CO2 and noise pollution’ in the city.

The protest was entirely peaceful. Copyright: Olive Press/Ben Pawlowski

Some protestors held a sign aloft that read ‘No to the America’s Cup’, in reference to the premier sailing competition which will take place off the coast of Barcelona this summer.

Earlier this week, Collboni announced that the 2026 Grand Depart of the Tour de France will be hosted by Barcelona, making the Catalan capital the third Spanish city to do so.

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