Former Spanish king Juan Carlos, who has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates, was greeted with cheers by onlookers in the small coastal town of Sanxenxo as he visited his homeland for the first time in nearly two years.
The 84-year-old ex-monarch, who left Spain in disgrace after being embroiled in a string of financial scandals, appeared in high spirits on Friday as he gathered with fellow sailing aficionados.
Sanxenxo, in Spain's north-west, is hosting a sailing regatta through the weekend, and Juan Carlos joined in the action. Television footage showed him boarding a motorboat accompanying the racing sailboats.
He has significant problems walking and had to be guided to the motorboat with the aid of a man on one side and a cane on the other.
The mayor of Sanxenxo, Telmo Martín, said that Juan Carlos definitely wants to come back for the Sailing World Championship in June. In 2017 and 2019, Juan Carlos was crowned world champion in the Six Metre Class.
A meeting with Sofia
The former monarch arrived in Spain from Abu Dhabi on Thursday night. He spent the first night back home at the home of a businessman friend in Sanxenxo. His trip lasts through Monday.
The media interest in the visit is enormous. About 200 journalists were on site, reported the state TV station RTVE.
Juan Carlos was scheduled to meet his 83-year-old wife Sofía on Monday along with his son, King Felipe VI. It is to take place at the royal residence Zarzuela near Madrid. Shortly thereafter, he is scheduled to fly back to Abu Dhabi.
Felipe is endeavouring to improve the image of the royal family and is seen as trying to distance himself from his father, who left the country in August 2020.