a city turned towards the sea and conquering the heart of the world
From the dramatic staging in the Catalan capital to the geopolitical backdrop, the Games of the XXV Olympiad were a landmark event, and the unity displayed was particularly poignant for the Olympic Movement.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Games were boycott-free for the first time since 1972.
Germany sent a single delegation team, while Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania competed as independent National Olympic Committees (NOCs). Twelve former Soviet republics took part in the opening ceremony as a unified team, under the Olympic flag.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina competed as new NOCs, while athletes from Serbia, Montenegro and Moldova competed as independent Olympic participants under the Olympic flag and using the Olympic anthem.
In an act of solidarity with the host of the Olympic Winter Games Sarajevo 1984, the city of Barcelona, its citizens and the Barcelona 1992 Organizing Committee provided humanitarian aid to the people of Sarajevo, hard hit by war Yugoslavia in progress.
After finally ending apartheid, South Africa was welcomed back into the Olympic fold, having last competed in 1960. The Games were attended by Nelson Mandela – President of the African National Congress ( ANC) at the time, leader of the anti-apartheid movement and a strong supporter of sport as a tool to contribute to a peaceful world.
The opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics has been hailed as one of the most magnificent in sports memory. Dancers performing the traditional Catalan circular dance Sardana, forming the Olympic rings, and José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé singing Freddie Mercury’s ‘Barcelona’ anthem, to the dramatic lighting of the Olympic flame with an arrow shot above the Leading the crowd, the ceremony reflected the rich spirit and startling transformation of the host city.
Unforgettable sporting moments include 32-year-old Linford Christie’s victory in the 100 meters, Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo collecting six gold medals in gymnastics and 13-year-old Fu Mingxia’s high dive winning the gold for China with Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in the Context. The Games were also the first to include an American Olympic basketball team with active NBA stars: the “Dream Team”, which included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley.
During that time, the host nation won 22 medals, 13 of them gold, affirming a sporting confidence that has since grown, notably in football, tennis and cycling.
The Games were preceded by a four-year “Cultural Olympiad” – which revitalized the arts landscape – and sports programs which continue to inspire residents. The “Sport for All” program expanded opportunities for children and young people to play sports, while “Activate” did the same for the over 40s. Other major programs focused on social integration, schools and opening Games venues to children during the summer holidays.
A city transformed
The 15 purpose-built venues are still in use today, as are 94% of all permanent venues used for the Games. These have been developed alongside other new and refurbished amenities in line with a visionary urban master plan, which has seen the town open up to the sea and the surrounding region transformed. Described as “new, progressive and successful”, the “Barcelona model” has been studied ever since – it even earned the city an unprecedented award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
“For me, a citizen of Barcelona, it was very clear that there was Barcelona before the Games and Barcelona after the Games,” said Pere Miró, former director of NOC relations and Olympic Solidarity at the International Olympic Committee. (IOC), who worked closely on the organization of Barcelona 1992. “It was a completely transformed city, in a positive way. For me, it was an excellent example of what the Games can do for the transformation and evolution of a city and a region, and for the benefit of urban and social development.
One of the best-known developments is the Port Olimpic marina, a former industrial area whose regeneration involved the decontamination of seawater and the creation of beaches, leisure areas and a marina. pleasure.
Located between the beaches of Somorrostro and Nova Icària, Port Olimpic is today known to locals and tourists alike for its water sports and its wide range of shops, restaurants and clubs.
Similarly, the development of the nearby Olympic Village has led to the redevelopment of the dilapidated district of Poblenou, further opening up the seafront and regenerating 40 km of coastline.
Outside of Barcelona, a medieval town in the Spanish Pyrenees has been chosen for the whitewater center at Segre Olympic Park. Canoeing is now complemented by other activities, such as rafting and mountain biking, making La Seu d’Urgell a tourist destination all year round.
There have been other reinventions, such as the Estació del Nord station, abandoned for 20 years. Redeveloped for the Games with its magnificent Art Nouveau iron and glass façade intact, the resort was home to table tennis and has since been transformed into a state-of-the-art municipal sports facility.
Return on investment
The construction of architecturally striking sites and city-wide renovation have been complemented by transport improvements – the expansion of the airport, a new ring road system and rail investments, including a new high-speed rail network. In total, around 95% of the city’s budget has been invested in transport links and infrastructure.
The organizers’ €900 million investment generated a direct boost of €7 billion for the region and wider economic benefits exceeding €18.6 billion, according to an independent estimate.
Since the Games, Barcelona has gained international recognition for its insightful approach to urban management, as well as Olympic legacy planning.
“The Games also created an intangible legacy: the feeling that all of society was working together for a common goal, in a common effort towards something positive for the city and the country,” added Miró. “It’s something that brought people together. We were very proud of it. This intangible legacy of the Games was very important.