Olympic Games

   According to Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the announcement in October 1986 that the twenty-fifth modern summer Olympics were to be held in his native Barcelona was one of the proudest moments of his life. Together with Expo-92 and Madrid's tenure as European City of Culture the Olympic Games were one of the three major international events held in Spain to commemorate the Quinto Centenario (five-hundredth anniversary) of Columbus" 1492 voyage to the Americas. Co-ordinated support from the CiU-controlled Generalitat, the civic administration of Barcelona's Socialist mayor, Pasqual Maragall and the Catalan financial sector attracted investment of over 800,000m pesetas from the public and private sectors to finance construction of venues in Diagonal, Vall d'Hebron and Montjuic, and an Olympic Village of two thousand flats along the waterfront. Major improvements were also undertaken in communication, sanitation and the local road and rail networks.
   Over 10,000 contestants represented 164 countries in the games, held between 25 July and 9 August 1992, which reflected recent changes in the international situation with the re-admission of South Africa and the former Soviet Republics represented by a "Unified Team".
   The games started controversially when King Juan Carlos I used Catalan in his address at the opening ceremony and, although many on the right railed against the prominence given to Catalan over Spanish in all official communications, the unprecedented performance of the national team led the games to be generally hailed as an outstanding success. Spain won 22 medals, 13 gold, 7 silver and 2 bronze, notably in the football competition and the prestigious 1,500 metres, won by Fermín Cacho. The effective sponsorship enjoyed by Spain's athletes in preparing for the games and the trust funds established as virtual prizes for gold medallists, contributed to Barcelona being the last games at which the IOC attempted to maintain their officially amateur status. The Olimpiada Cultural (Cultural Olympics), held to coincide with the sporting festivities, attracted a number of artists and companies involved in the celebrations in Madrid and Seville, and was criticized in some sectors as attempted one-upmanship in the historic rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid.
   Since the games, locals and visitors alike have continued to benefit from Barcelona's vastly improved sports facilities and public transport. Furthermore, the Galería Olímpica (Olympic Visitor Centre) in the Montjuic Stadium has become a major tourist attraction. Most analysts agree, however, that Barcelona has coped less well than Seville with the after-effects of 1992. Although the games served to delay the effects of the international recession at a local level, the effects of the subsequent rise in unemployment have been more marked, with a larger proportion of itinerant workers choosing to remain in Catalonia, which traditionally attracts much of its workforce from elsewhere in Spain. The project to sell off or re-use real estate in the Olympic village has also proved problematic, with criticism levelled at the pricing structure and the poor quality of some of the property.
   CHRIS DIXON

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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