Security limits Madrid’s New Year celebrations

Madrid, Dec 28 (IANS) Revelers looking to welcome in the New Year in Madrid’s traditional Puerta del Sol square this year will find several changes to the usual routine, the media reported on Monday.

Puerta del Sol is literally the heart of Spain; literally “kilometre zero” and all distances in Spain are calculated from a plaque in the heart of the square, Xinhua news agency reported.

One of the first stops on the tourist agenda, Sol is also the traditional meeting point where every year tens of thousands gather to celebrate the arrival of the New Year as the chimes of midnight ring out from the clock tower on the former police station.

However, with Spain still on a high level of alert over the threat of a terrorist attack, this year that tradition is going to suffer a series of changes as a result of the security situation.

For a start police have announced they will strictly limit the number of people allowed into the square, with the 75,000 capacity reduced to just 25,000 with a limit of 2.5 people per square metre.

Anyone wishing to attend the celebrations will also find their access limited. After the last metro closes at around 10.00 p.m., partygoers will have to use one of just main streets to enter Puerta de Sol.

All of the side-streets will be closed down and checkpoints set up in the access roads to allow security personal to search bags and coats. It has also been confirmed that police will not let anyone carrying fireworks or alcohol pass through to the celebrations.

The celebrations also have a time limit. Although it is normal for Spaniards to party well into the early hours to welcome in the New Year, those in Puerta del Sol will have to end their party by 1.30 a.m. when the square will be evacuated and cleaned.

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