MADRID – With less than a month to go before half a million young Catholics descend on Madrid, “there are an infinite number of small problems to solve”, said the executive director of World Youth Day 2011.

Mr Yago de la Cierva said on July 18 that he has “seven tons of rosaries I have to bail out of customs”. The US-based Family Rosary Crusade had the rosaries made in Ecuador and sent to Madrid for distribution to participants at World Youth Day (WYD), Aug 16-21.

But, Mr de la Cierva said, it is a bit difficult to convince customs agents that seven tons of anything shipped internationally is meant as a gift and not a product to be sold and, therefore, taxed.

A produce company has promised to donate 11,000 kg of bananas, but if organisers accept the fruit, “we have to find a way to dispose of all those peels”, he told reporters at a news conference in Madrid.
With just a short time left to plan six days of activities for the more than 420,000 young people who already have registered for World Youth Day and for the 1.2 million people expected at the pope’s Mass on Aug 21, organisers estimate the event will cost more than US$70 million. However, they said they expect to cover it all with registration fees and donations, especially of supplies. The donated material includes the bananas and other food for participants, but also big-ticket items like private security officers and the materials and labour for the stages and altar platforms for papal events.

The Madrid headquarters is staffed with 250 people, “working 25 hours a day”, Mr de la Cierva said. About 200 of the staff members are volunteers from around the world. Many are housed, fed and transported by WYD, but none of them are paid.

“All the plans have been finalised. The work is going forward. We currently are reviewing what else needs to be done,” the executive director said.

One of those things, he said, is to accept more volunteers. The original plan was to have 23,000 helping from Aug 16-21, but now organisers are rallying 30,000 volunteers. Just the task of coordinating all those volunteers is a major undertaking, he said.

Mr David Martin Valles, vice director of Madrid’s tourism promotion office, said the demand for hotel rooms in the city this August is “150 percent higher than normal for August”. In a city that has about 70,000 hotel rooms, the occupancy rate is expected to be complete, he said. Hotels in towns nearby also are experiencing a boom in bookings. - CNS

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