It’s less than 2 hours before the Opening Ceremony of World Youth Day 2011, but Cibeles Square had turned into a multinational party long before this. From where I’m sitting in the Press stands I can see the flags of Brazil, the Philippines, Italy, the United States, Switzerland, Egypt – and quite a few I can’t name without the use of Google.
“Girls, where are you!” roars the commentator. (Very rough translation here). The females in the crowd give him an obliging scream.
“Boys, give me a shout!” A bass bellow rises from the lads.
Then the whole of the square suddenly begins the Macarena, everyone facing whichever way they choose and more than once I’ve since enthusiastic pilgrims walloping each other on the ear as they turn contrary to their neighbour.
A clip of Pope Benedict XVI flashes up on the screens, and Pope John Paul II’s well-beloved voice is heard. “You seek the meaning of your life.”
The almighty roar from the millions of people stretching on down the streets, as the ‘juventud de Papa’ show their appreciation, is staggering. (Although when the Pope actually arrives I expect to be deafened). There is an atmosphere of joy as I’ve never felt – the collective enthusiasm of the youth of the world is so infectious that everyone – even the grim Press vultures – are smiling and even bopping along to the Macarena.