The 25th July 1992 marked the inauguration of what were considered the best Olympic Games of all time. For the space of sixteen days, Barcelona became the focal point of the whole world, with television playing an essential role in showing all the first rate work done, the high quality of the installations, the transformation of the city and the warm welcome extended to the athletes and visitors. All this was accompanied by good sporting results, considering that Spanish athletes had never had such success, winning 22 medals.
The popular celebrations of the 25th July this year are intended to remind us of that Olymplic spirit that, besides the anniversary itself, touched the hearts of so many in Barcelona, and transformed the city in so many ways. As the Mayor Pasqual Maragall used to say, it put Barcelona on the map.
Barcelona has emerged as a global city in these global times, and major transformations such as these always have their pros and contras (today, it is tourism that is at the heart of the debate), but even so, the residents of Barcelona are still deeply in love with their city. There are the tangible results (such as the recovery of the coastline and the improvements in urban planning) and those that are harder to gauge such as self-confidence and the ability to see the city’s true values behind the gloss.
The Games, for example, saw the creation of the figure of the olympic volunteer, which would develop as the force behind a wider volunteer movement for causes such as solidarity between peoples, in favour of the environment and culture… The Plaça dels Voluntaris honours those thousands of keen volunteers who emerged as one of the best images that Barcelona and Catalonia were to show the world.
A period of changes
The Olympic Games, and the period of preparation were probably the largest collective endeavour that Barcelona has seen, comparable only with the Pla Cerdà and the two great exhibitions, which also exerted a similarly powerful influence on the development of the city: the Universal Exhibition of 1888 was Barcelona’s presentation as a metropolis, and that of 1929 showed its desire to be a focus for modernity. The Olympic Games saw Barcelona proclaim its position in Spain, the Mediterranean and the world. It was also the proof that it was possible to bring different social, political, financial and cultural perspectives together to support a popular collective project.
The coastline was cleared of obsolete industries, and the ring roads, sporting infrastructure, the Vila Olimpica, Olympic ring (with the Palau Sant Jordi and the Stadium) were all developed, along with improvements in neighbourhoods, streets, facilities and the expansion of the airport (with a significant improvement of what is today the T-2), hotels, tourism and a positive impact on business travel and trade fairs.
The impact of the Games overall has been assessed as 18,000 million euros. The two sectors to benefit the most were construction and tourism. The number of hotel beds in the city jumped from 18,569 to 25,055 between 1990 and 1992. The Games contributed to the increase in business activity and a change in the business community due to the modernization of the city, the increase in service sector activities, the attraction of new foreign investment and aperture to the global economy.
See the official film of the Barcelona 92 Olympic Games.
Fira, in the front line
Fira’s collaboration was a very important part in the success of the Games, because it granted the use of the three buildings in the Montjuïc site for conversion into the headquarters of the Media Centre (including the International Press Centre and the International Radio and Television Centre), the Centre for Accreditations, the Centre for Representation of the Organization Committee for the 92 Barcelona Olympics (COOB’92), the Information and Technology Operations Centre, the Catering Centre for organization personnel and the Welcome Centre for Sponsors.
It was also the site for the fencing event, which took place in the Palau de la Metal·lúrgia, today known as Palau 8. Besides this, many Fira employees held positions of responsibility in the organization of the Games, and many others took part as volunteers. One outstanding example was Josep Miquel Abad, the CEO of Fira from 1983, who was put in charge of the Games Organization Committee in 1987.
See the full report in Firanews, published on february 16th, 2017.