The Puerto Deportivo inBenalmádena, as it is today. / SUR

The jewel of Benalmádena marks its golden anniversary

On 12 November 1972 the works on Benalmádena's Puerto Marina were authorised to start but the path to its inauguration was filled with obstacles

MARINA RIVAS

Anyone knowing its history could be forgiven for describing Benalmádena's Puerto Marina as a miracle, because despite seemingly endless obstacles, bitter disputes and difficulties in general, it finally achieved the aim of placing Benalmádena on the international map and became the jewel in the crown of the Costa del Sol.

On 12 November 1972 the works of the Puerto Deportivo de Benalmádena, to give it its official name, were officially authorised to begin although in fact this spectacular marina was not inaugurated until 9 October 1982.

What were the problems? Let's go back to the beginning. The mood was very optimistic and positive on that day when the young mayor of Benalmádena, Enrique Bolín, and the first investor Max Toledano signed the contract on behalf of the Benalmádena SA company. But then the complications began: there were political conflicts, slow progress with the works and numerous financial difficulties.

There were differences with the then civil governor of Malaga, Antonio Gómez, which led to Bolín being replaced as mayor by Juan García-Soto until 1979. During his mandate he rescinded the contract with Benalmádena S.A. and the works came to a halt from 1974 to 1978.

Maybe the high costs, or the complicated political situation in Spain after the death of Franco had something to do with it, but after that no investor was prepared to take the project over.

And then, after mediation by Toledano, Edmundo Alfaro arrived on the scene (he was later investigated for fraud and forging documents). As the head of the firm Cemesa,he became involved in financing the port and wanted to call it Puerto Príncipe, with the blessing of the Royal Household. But the problems continued. In 1981 Cemesa's assets were embargoed after it was taken to court by its own investor, the Dutch financier Hilders Group, for failing to fulfil a contract. After a great deal of negotiation, and via its subsidiary Frifor and its head, Mark Farber, who was an American employee of the World Bank, the project was finally resumed.

Everything went full steam ahead for a while then, with Eduardo Oria as the architect and Jaime Dionis as leading engineer. There was great interest in the project, and thanks to Alfaro's influential contacts the name of Benalmádena appeared at important tourism fairs, on the front cover of magazines such as Vogue and at events worldwide as a "centre for investment and a haven of peace". However, there were still two schools of thought about the project. Some people loved the idea because it was so unusual and would help to place Benalmádena on the map, while others were sceptical about the chance of completing a project of this magnitude as there had been so few others beforehand. .

The inauguration

Despite all the adversities, the Puerto Deportivo was finally inaugurated by Enrique Bolín, who was back as mayor by then, and Rafael Escuredo, the president of the recently created Junta de Andalucía. In accordance with tradition, the priest at the Inmaculada Concepcion church in Arroyo de la Miel blessed the new project. It was a day of celebration and one that many people had thought would never happen.

That was only the first phase of the Port project, as it took more than 20 years for all the apartments and shops to be finished but Benalmádena continued to keep its name in the public eye by organising international sporting events and beauty competitions such as Miss España, attracting well-known names including celebrities, members of royal families, politicians, actors and business leaders, as well as celebrating festivals and creating associations like the Club Náutico and Los Delfines Diving Club, the first of its type in Andalucía.

It was a real odyssey to get to where it is today, a world famous award-winning marina, the emblem that Benalmádena needed and a project which changed the very way in which the town was viewed and understood.

It involved long years of waiting, legal and political battles, dedication and an enormous amount of hard work, all of which have now been compiled in a book called El Proyecto que cambió Benalmádena, produced by the council and written by José Manuel Bielsa. This book, with its numerous photos, is not intended to be sold. It will be available for educational purposes and as a record of an important part of Benalmádena's history.