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Sporting Andalucia takes poll position

Last week it was FITUR, the tourism fair, in Madrid. You may have seen reports in the press, and numerous mentions on Twitter, about the (temporary) hotel made of rubbish, designed to coincide with FITUR. The hotel was constructed using 12 tons of basura collected from beaches around Europe (including Spain's). Part of a campaign to alert people to the litter that is dumped on our beaches, "Save the Beach", the hotel closed yesterday but attracted a huge amount of media attention during its short life span. A clever idea, and hopefully one which will make people think twice before chucking a Coke bottle in the sand, rather than carrying it few yards to a rubbish bin. I have my doubts about the Spanish; they are born-and-bred litterers. An announcement at FITUR which garnered considerably less international press coverage, though plenty nationally, and which is good news for those of us living in Andalucia, was a new plan to promote the region through its sporting events. A host of major events which will be hosted in Andalucia were mentioned as part of a tourism/economic plan, with a wide variety to suit every age and type of sports fan, from the golf fanatic, to the cycling enthusiast and the tennis aficionado. Events will take place all across the region, from mountain to sea, city to national park. I'm not interested in most sports myself (an obsessive sports journo ex-boyfriend put me off for life), but I can see its importance for the local economy, which is what matters most these days. We all know that with its sunny climate, Andalucia is an ideal destination for sport - add the spectacular scenery, miles of coastline and buzzing cities, and you have the perfect location for a holiday with a top sporting event attached. Heaven for some people. The biggest and most well-known events are three golf tournaments - the Andalucia Golf Masters, held at Valderrama (October), the Andalucia Golf Open, in Malaga (March), and the Volvo World Matchplay in Casares, Malaga (May); followed by the Motorcycle Grand Prix in Jerez (April), and three stages, including one in the Sierra Nevada, of the Tour of Spain cycle race (Vuleta Ciclista a España, late August/early September). Other events include the Doñana Triathlon Challenge, in the Doñana National Park; the Extreme 40 Sailing Series (Almeria); the World Motocross Championship at Punta Umbria, in Huelva (March); the Eurorando, a non-competitive hiking event in Almeria and Granada (until October); two mountain-biking races: Desafio del Buda, in Malaga (April), and Andalucia Bike Race, in Cordoba and Jaen (end February/beginning March); and the Andalucia Tennis Experience, a WTA (women's) tournament held in Marbella. It's quite an impressive list, and also helps to broaden our appeal beyond beaches, flamenco and tapas (not that there's anything wrong with them, mind). When you think of Andalucia, I doubt that sport is the first thing which springs to mind, except possibly golf (there are over 100 courses here, many of international standard). So there you have it: if you're thinking coming to Andalucia for a holiday, and you happen to be a sports fan, then why not plan your holiday so you can enjoy one of these top events too? And if you have a business here, then use them to get potential visitors to come to your hotel or restaurant. It's a gold mine for all of us, whichever way you look at it.
Blog published on 24 January 2011